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Early navigators used math to chart their course and stay on it when dealing with factors such as wind and ocean current that affected their journeys. The system left something to be desired regarding accuracy.
With the use of Introduction to vectors, your students can complete the activity that is linked below and gain not only some reallife use of vectors but also come to understand why Columbus did not reach his planned destination.
It gives meaning to math when students can use it in reallife and come to realize the part it played in history. Almost all branches of engineering use vectors as tools when calculating stress and force.
Vectors are used for designing with fluid dynamics concepts to describe the forces such as water and wind movement. They are used to describe the effects of electric and magnetic fields. You cannot stress the importance of vectors enough to your students.
This activity charts the course of a ship traveling west from Spain. With the use of vectors, students can calculate how long the journey will take and where the ship will land. Here is the link to the activity.
It is best to work through this on your own before presenting it to the class. Doing so enables you to help students who struggle at first. Worksheets and answer keys are provided.
Here is the link to the Activity: https://www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/cub_navigation_lesson02_activity1
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81 Assignment  Introduction to Vectors (FREEBIE)
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