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Math on Africa

Date: 01/03/97 at 19:19:35
From: Charles Napier
Subject: Math on Africa

We're doing an interdisciplinary unit on Africa.  My part is to do
something about math that would be educational as well as fun for the
students.  Please e-mail me a great answer.

Charlie Napier

Date: 01/04/97 at 01:25:49
From: Doctor Mike
Subject: Re: Math on Africa

Hello Mr. Napier,
My ideas of what is interesting may be a bit far out, but here goes.

1. We now know that any flat map can be colored with 4 colors.  Get
   an absolutely current map of Africa, and also a mid-century map
   of Africa where what's now Zaire was still the Belgian Congo, etc.
   See what different coloring strategies are needed to color these
   different maps with at most 4 colors (no 2 countries that touch
   at all can be colored with the same color).

2. Get a printed copy of Alex Haley's "Roots" and look at the part
   where the genealogy is traced back to Kunte Kinte by listening
   to the African "aural historian".  Count the generations that
   passed, and figure out how many ancestors there must have been.

3. For something completely different, research applications of
   mathematics in ancient Egypt.  There must be some interesting
   engineering applications for building the pyramids.  Also, I've
   heard that because the Nile flooded each year, the farmers had
   to use some geometrical applications to survey boundaries that
   the floods washed away.

4. Find stamps from some African country that has existed throughout
   the 20th century (a Public Library might have Scott's Stamp
   collecting catalog) and find out what mailing a first class letter
   cost at different times during the century. Do this for the USA
   for comparison. Then graph the rate vs. the 19xx year to show a
   measure of inflation during the century.  

5. Figure out what percent of the area of Africa is above/below the
   equator. Compare with South America.  

6. List all the countries of Africa in order of area. List all the
   countries of Africa in order of populations. Do any countries
   occupy the same position on both list?
I can't think of any others now, but this is a start.  Good luck.

-Doctor Mike,  The Math Forum
 Check out our web site!   
Associated Topics:
Elementary Math History/Biography
High School History/Biography
Middle School History/Biography

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