Our last lecture of fall 2008 by Dr. Tanya Khovanova reprised many of the themes that made this semester memorable.
The very first lecture by Richard Rusczyk emphasized the importance of playfulness to encourage a deep understanding in problem solvers. Many of our speakers continued this theme, and Dr. Khovanova’s first lecture on binary numbers was a perfect example.
She encouraged the students to work together in small groups and issued them the challenge to guess a day in the month by asking only 5 yes or no questions. Using binary she was able to teach them a memorable “trick” to always getting the right answer. She followed this with an exercise with playing cards which by applying a binary technique quickly sorted the deck into order.
After the break, Dr. Khovanova showed some of the web sites she had developed and others that are used by professional mathematicians:
Number Gossip is a particularly interesting web site developed by Dr. Khovanova that lists multiple interesting properties for any number the user enters. This recalls Dr. Paul Stanford’s own book of interesting numbers which he shared with us earlier in the semester.
The Pi-Search Page is a fun tool which allows the user to find a sequence of digits anywhere in the number Pi.
The Secret Lives of Numbers is a tool based upon all of the number references collected by Google. It is an interesting way to see how frequently specific numbers occur in our daily lives.
Dr. Khovanova’s Own Site has many useful essays and references for young problem solvers.
We are very grateful to Dr. Khovanova and all of our speakers for making this an excellent Fall semester and we look forward to the Spring.