Certain schools on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are teaching native students the mathematics that was done by their ancient ancestors in the Mayan civilization. Check it out in the video above.
Watch the video and pay attention to how the Mayans write their numbers and conduct simple arithmetic. Answer the following questions.
- How would you express the number 19 using the Mayan notation?
- In the video, the news reporter shows how to do the arithmetic 16 + 7. Replicate that arithmetic using drawings.
- Now create a drawing/notation using the Mayan method to conduct the arithmetic 18 + 6.
- Explain at least three reasons why it is important for these children to be taught this method of arithmetic alongside the “typical” methods (like the way you learned to do addition, for example).
With the 2018 Winter Olympics in full swing, 538 has published an analysis of Men’s vs. Women’s skiing statistics. In the history of the Olympics, men and women have always raced separately and received separate medals. American Olympian Lindsey Vonn wants to be able to race against the men. What do the numbers say about this?
Read the article linked above. Answer the following questions in a couple of sentences each.
- In what skiing event(s), if any, do men appear to be consistently faster? In what skiing event(s), if any, do women appear to be consistently faster? In what skiing event(s), if any, does there not appear to be any discernible difference between men’s and women’s speed?
- What other factor(s) do we need to take into account about the men’s and women’s skiing events besides their average speed?
- Using the data provided in the article, write a short paragraph making an argument either FOR or AGAINST women racing against men in alpine skiing events. (There is no correct stance to take on this issue, but you must use the data to support your claim. Don’t just state your opinion.)
- Does Lindsey Vonn think she would win against the men? What do you think is her motivation for wanting to race against the men?
Mathematician Dr. Corina Tarnita studies the mathematics of nature and biology, including things called “fairy circles”. Watch the video above and read more about her work here (via Quanta).
Watch the video and read her interview at the link above. Answer the following questions in a couple of complete sentences each.
- Explain (from the video) her comparison of liking magic tricks to understanding how nature works. What did she mean by this?
- What are fairy circles, and how does mathematics play a role in how termites help to create them?
- What does Dr. Tarnita hope that “patterns” and “symmetry” will help teach them about the ecosystem in the African savannah?
Chefs in Great Britain have used “maths” to determine the best way to cook roasted potatoes. See the magic formula here (courtesy of the Sun).
Watch the video and read the accompanying article. Write a paragraph that explains the difference between the “traditional” way of making roasted potatoes and the “new, mathematical” way. What changes were made and what is the advantage? How did chefs determine that the new way was in fact “better”?
In a second paragraph, describe another food that you think might be improved using mathematics to aid in the preparation. Describe a hypothesis you might have about how that food might be improved using mathematics and why you think it would be an improvement. Give a diagram if it helps your explanation.
STOP! If you plan on finishing this badge, right now I want you to take a blank sheet of paper and draw any THREE (3) of the following company logos from memory (including color — not just black and white drawings unless the logo itself is black and white). Don’t look them up, just draw what you can remember of any three of these logos:
Apple, Adidas, Burger King, Domino’s, 7-11, Foot Locker, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, IKEA.
People all over the country were asked to do this activity, and the results are interesting. After you’ve drawn your logos from memory, click HERE to compare your drawings to everyone elses.
Draw the logos before reading the article, then look at the article. You don’t have to read the whole thing — but read the introduction, then skip to the three sections that correspond to the three logos that you drew (You can use the icons near the top of the article to “jump” to that section”)
Answer these questions:
- How did you do? Compare any mistakes you made to the most common mistakes made by other people.
- Write a few sentences comparing common mistakes you noted between the three logos that you read about. Do humans have any common tendencies? Notice any patterns you see in the mistakes that people tended to make. What were the easiest parts of each logo to remember? Why do you think that is?
- Read the Summary at the bottom of the page and “place yourself” on the table/chart that they showed. Do you think you have a better- or worse-than average memory?
- Take the interactive quiz underneath the summary How did you do? Better or worse than you expected?
When you turn in your badge, be sure to include your original drawings-from-memory.
Did you know the color distribution of M and Ms has changed over the years? Quartz has a breakdown, and how you can which factory your candy originates from (including one right here in Tennessee)! (Thanks to Bowman Dickson for sharing this link on Twitter!)
Read the article linked here or above.
Answer the following questions in a couple of sentences each.
- Compare the color distribution for M and M’s in 1997 compared to the color distribution in 2008. What changed? Why do you think it changed (hypothesize)?
- Why does Mars no longer publish the color data for M and Ms? (In other words, what’s true about the two different plants that manufacture M and Ms?)
- Buy a bag of M and Ms and before you eat it, count the colors. Create a data display (bar graph, pie graph, etc) to show the color distribution in your bag (you can use Excel or some other program to help you do this, or you can do it by hand). State whether or not you think you are eating New Jersey or Tennessee M and Ms based on your results, and explain your reasoning.
Gerrymandering is the term for when political borders (shapes of districts, etc.) are set so that one political party/group gains an advantage. It’s widespread, but there are some cases in the court system now trying to address the issue — and mathematicians are helping. From The Nib comes a comic the describes mathematicians’ roles when it comes to Gerrymandering. Check it out!
Read the comic linked above. Answer the following questions in a couple of sentences each.
- Using the cartoon of red/blue houses, explain how gerrymandering can take an evenly split vote between two parties and make it a “majority win” for one of the parties.
- Courts have rules against districts in the past for racially-based gerrymandering. But why have the court systems been mostly powerless to rule on partisan gerrymandering cases to this point?
- Mathematicians are tackling the unresolved question of how “compact” districts can be and how to define that compact-ness. What are two ways that “compact” can be defined mathematically?
- In your own words, describe what is meant by “negative curvature”. Why is this a red flag for districts?
- How are mathematicians using “maps that could have been” as a way to frame the gerrymandering discussion?