A Necessary Look Back....
As each New Year begins, it is fitting to look back at the Old Year. For example, can you state important things that happened mathematically in the past year? Discoveries...New theorems....Revolutionary leaps?
One hopefully could build a lengthy list via exhausting searches on the Internet. Or, one could turn to the December issue of Science News, which usually provides a recap of "Science News of the Year."
For example, consider these sample items of "Mathematical News" from some selected years. As you read them, ask if (and what) you knew about them? And, would the typical person look at this list with surprised awe...or rather conclude that doing math has little value.
- Researchers in computational geometry demonstrated that any crinkly polygon can be unfurled into a convex shape without letting the sides cross each other
- Proved: The standard double-bubble configuration, familiar to soap-bubble enthusiasts, represents the least surface area when the two bubble volumes are unequal.
- The Goldbach conjecture--that every even number is the sum of two primes--was shown to be true up to 4 x 1014
- Analyzing a variant of the familiar game of 20 questions offered insights into Internet communication
- Analysis of sliding-block puzzles led to a novel theoretical model of computer logic
- Researchers used a mathematical model of peer-influenced behavior to explain unexpected patterns in financial data and bird populations
Share these "exciting" items with your students, asking them to find out exactly what each item means...in the mathematical world and in our real-world outside the classroom. Also, have students try to build a similar list for the year 2008....before using Science News as a cheat sheet.
- Coin tossing is inherently biased, with the coin more likely to land on the face that it started on...
- Mathematicians proved that the population of prime numbers includes an infinite collection of arithmetic progressions
- It is easier to pack spheres in some dimensions than it is in others, mathematicians discovered
- Statistical techniques showed promise for detecting forgeries and group efforts in the realm of painting
Source: December issues of Science News for the years 2000, 2002, 2004