Turtles all the Way Down

July 15, 2009

I’ve been terribly delinquent about posting here recently.

I’ve just finished my second week of my summer course, Turtles All the Way Down, which I’ve been teaching through the Robinson Center at the University of Washington. I have to say, it’s been a thrilling and tiring ride so far. We meet from 9-2:20, Monday, Tuesday, and Thurdsay, which adds up to more than fifteen hours a week in class. The students, each of whom just finished seventh, eighth, or ninth grade, are a pretty impressive bunch.

My goal in the class has been to get the kids asking their own questions. I would say they’re on a roll at this point. Many of the issues that get raised in class are deeply mathematically substantial. What’s also fun is that I get to learn from my students and my TA.

Two of the gems from the course:

1. There are “bigger” infinites than the infinity we think of. We’ve discussed the two smallest in class so far. My students are clamoring to know if there are more (there are), and what they look like.

2. There’s a more general way to think about dimension that allows you to measure the dimension of fractals as being nonnatural numbers. We’ve seen fractals with dimension close to 1.77, for example. This was actually new to me, and pretty cool.

I’ll try to update with more highlights soon!

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