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Summer SAVY Session 5, Day 3, Mathematicians in History: Patterns, Order, and Relationships

Posted by on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 in blog, SAVY.

Day 3:

Our day was packed with adventures – mostly mathematical, some weather related, but all successful! We considered the story of an ancient Egyptian mathematician named Senefer, and we’ll finish that story tomorrow. He became a great builder and used his skills with such structures as obelisks and ramps to build incredible monuments. Additionally, the students worked to solve hands-on puzzles by analyzing components, moving them in space, and creating specific structures according to specific criteria.

We continued to work the fascinating patterns of Pascal’s Triangle, observing the Power of 2. Specifically, the students considered a paper tower (theoretical in nature) made of continuously halved and stacked 1/1000 inch thick paper. In other words, we were doubling the sheets with every iteration. We estimated doing so to the 50th iteration and how tall that would be. It seems like a tall tale, but the outcomes were literally out of this world! The students asked that I communicate that height for dinner times considerations: a tower 17,769,885 miles high? Can that be converted to the metric system, they asked? Yes, and that I challenged could be their work at home. How would this be done and what information is needed? 🙂

Finally, we enjoyed creating various ellipses with differently spaced focal points to better understand the relationships of planetary orbits to our sun as Hypatia did in Alexandria did in the 5th century. We discussed the realities of her tragic murder and how difficult it is sometimes for societies to accept new mathematical concepts and ideas. We discussed the value of open mindedness and observing evidence with new ideas. It was an inspiring lesson and it was difficulty to replicate her work but we agreed to keep trying.

We look forward to sharing and discussing these and other mathematical wonders. It is the habit of a scholar to communicate ideas with clarity and this was one of our favorite examples: Hypatia and the Elipse!