Date: Apr 20, 1995 2:12 AM
Author: Ed Wall
Subject: Re: where's the math? so? (was Re: 5th Grade Activity)
I've been listening to the infinity thread, etc. and thinking about some

of the discussions and what my response is to some of the points raised.

Okay, first I must admit a bias. I actually enjoy math (several different

branches) and deep down want my students to love it enough to become

life long mathematical explorers!! Maybe even professional mathematicans.

Now

1. The above isn't going to necessarily happen and that is okay. Afterall

there are perhaps better things one could do with their life. : )

2. However, sneaking in a bit of fun (and infinity can be that) won't

hurt them, and may even get students to think a bit more. Besides

I'll enjoy it. BUT I need to be realistic about my expectations.

Enrichment is perhaps the right word.

3. And finally, isn't mathematics about thinking? Aren't some of

our goals getting students to think using mathematical tools (not

that there aren't other perfectly valid ways of thinking)? And aren't

mathematical 'tools' extremely diverse today (I have the number

of branches of math somewhere and I think it out of date already)?

Sadly, as I think about it: the fifth graders are having a great time and

the eighth graders are bored to tears. What happened?

I found that a fun 'approach' to infinity for eighth graders has been to

challenge them to write the largest number they know and then introduce the

concept of a mega (which is reasonably easy to define) and then the concept

of a moser. I then tell them that they are exempted from the course if they

can give me the number of digits in a moser. I've had several phone a relative

at some University for an answer. After about two days of pounding the

calculators (or computers), I reduce the challenge (and, of course, the

reward) to writing a mega. So far, I've gotten no solutions and I 'write'

it out for them.

Later, we talk a bit further and, depending on the class, I may use Cantor's

approach for counting the rationals.

Ed Wall