Cool Maths – Deadly Maths

Before I start to go on about what my kids are doing in my grade 8 class, a link…

Professor Marcus du Sautoy is behind this:

It ticks so many boxes of what I am trying to get my kids to see.  Maths is everywhere, and in a pleasing way. My hope is that some of my kids run with this and even enter. I haven’t read the fine print, but maybe I can meet Marcus if I enter and get a symmetrical object named after me.  Maths in Hanoi, chaos theory, surely!

Hanoi Traffic
Hanoi Traffic by mr clearview licensed under CC by A NC SA

Marcus du Sautoy is someone you should follow, @marcusdusautoy, if you teach or even like mathematics. Google him and you’ll find amazing things you can use from television to websites and he’s involved in Manga High.

My grade 8s are almost ready to submit their latest assessment task. I rejigged the old Pythagoras investigation as I do each year. This time, however, it was more of an overhaul. The biggest change was to drop the very popular approach of getting students to ‘find’ the relationship all by themselves (with some guidance *ahem*).

Instead they were shown the theorem and how it worked. Part of their job, this time, was to prove it geometrically and with data. Some students also looked into algebraic proofs. Still, that isn’t anything new. What was truly cool about Pythagoras and his precious right angled triangles were the blasphemous irrational numbers he found in his calculations. Rumours surround how he died, how he was murdered. These numbers upset all of the Greek Gods and that’s a lot of anger.

Day 85/365: We Love Diversity

Day 85/365: We Love Diversity by Kugel licensed under CC by A NC SA

Pythagoras and his apostles were burnt inside their school is one legend. There are so many more too. Students were fond of the one where he was chased to a field of beans and couldn’t go any further, so they cornered him and the rest is history. Pythagoras and his followers did not eat beans, they represented testicles. Student: “I don’t think I would have run into the field of beans either.”

Students enjoyed looking up the stories of his death and about Pythagorean beliefs. They were told very little and I learnt some new things too.

To introduce this part of the task I asked students to name some mathematicians. As ever lots of dead ones were mentioned. Then I asked for some that were still alive and expected silence…

Silence was not what I got. I was so impressed with my class of budding mathematicians. You may not agree with all of these, but I don’t want to edit out what the kids contibuted.

Ngo Bao Chau

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

TED Talk peopleRobert Lang and Kashima and Margaret Wertheim

Professor Rose – teacher of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Mr. Khan

Professor Du Sautoy (“Manga Maths guy”)

Dr. Dan (he visited us not so long ago and led some cool probability activities)

8BD and Ms. Griffin (I supplied 8BD, they threw me back to me)

Grigori Perelman 

Andrew Wiles

The last two were mine because they proved theorems too, just like Pythagoras did so many years ago.  When they succeeded in their task they were offered a reward of $1,000,000. Perelman said no thank you. He was in it for the mathematics. Not that Wiles wasn’t. He loves mathematics, really loves it. Pythagoras wasn’t offered any riches, they killed him. There are of course some million dollar prizes still for grabs

We very briefly discussed Fermat’s Last Theorem. They understood the concept, particularly as we have just been immersed in the Pythagorean Theorem. Andrew Wiles was a similar age when he read about in a library and was inspired to prove it, because he understood it.

So my students set out to show that perhaps a death sentence for being right was a little harsh. Poor clever Pythagoras, a band of barefooted dedicated apostles and a whole new number system to explore, but it only led to his death.

Athenian Temple by Jonathan Burr licensed under CC by A SA NC

Interested in why irrational numbers angered Zeus and all of his buddies? You are already online. Telling you everything ruins the thrill of deadly mathematics.  

And on a final note for this incredibly enjoyable task (there will be a little MYP speak at the end) at parent-teacher-student conferences tonight I had a parent say that they were enjoying the mathematics and learning something new too. They even had a question. Excellent, they are discussing maths at home.

For the MYPers out there: This is assessed using criteria C Communication and D Reflection.

The famous mathematicians lead in was from Charles Lovitt, a great sharer of resources, lessons and ideas from a workshop last week.