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Me, Myself and Math

Found In: mathematics, 9-12

Me, Myself and Math is a six-part series that looks at us and our place in the cosmos mathematically. The author, Steven Strogatz, is a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. No specialized knowledge or background is required to appreciate the discussions. Each essay includes notes and citations and links for further investigation. If adjusted, the concepts can be explored by students in grades K-12.

  1. Singular Sensations examines singularities, a point of confusion, such as a cowlick, fingerprints, the eye of a hurricane, and time at the poles. It continues by looking at topology, a branch of mathematics used to describe singularities.
  2. Friends You Can Count On looks at Facebook, friendship, the friendship paradox, and weighted averages to explain why your Facebook friends have more friends than you do.
  3. Proportion Control explores the golden ration, phi or 1.618 and its origin in Euclid’s geometry.
  4. It’s My Birthday Too, Yeah demystifies coincidence with a discussion of probability and poses a classic puzzle about shared birthdays.
  5. Dangerous Intersection examines sleep and business cycles in light of catastrophe theory. Concepts are illustrated with animations.
  6. Visualizing Vastness describes a walkable scale model of the solar system to develop understanding of large numbers and scientific notation. This entry includes the short video “Powers of Ten,” which zooms through 40 powers of ten to outer space and inner space.

Strogatz had an earlier 15-part series: Steven Strogatz on the Elements of Math.

Teachers can register for a free electronic edition of the New York Times and access to other resources.



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