- Topics: History of Math, Mathematicians: Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians (Volume One) by L. Reimer and W. Reimer, Chapter 4 (Hypatia). Note: I skipped the ending of this story, only briefly summarizing (see notes below).
- Topic: Decision Trees, Addition: First I reviewed the Pokemon decision tree from last week (a couple kids weren’t there). Next, each kid “drafted” a team of Pokemon cards. I split the cards into 5 piles, gave one pile to each kid; they each picked one and passed the pile to the right, and we repeated until each kid had 5 Pokemon. Then, I gave out prizes based on the attributes of the Pokemon; some were based on the single Pokemon (e.g., most HP), and others were based on the entire team (largest total weight). You can download the prizes here (the Pikachus are to give out when there are ties). After all the prizes were awarded, the kids worked together to built a decision tree which identified whose team each Pokemon was on (that is, the labels at the leaves were the kids’ names). I did the initial few splits until I had 5 different leaves, numbered them 1-5, and then had each kid work on one of the pages.
How Did It Go?
We had all five kids this week.
I definitely wanted to read this one because it’s one of the few stories about a female mathematician. Unfortunately, she was killed by a religious mob. So I stopped about 2 pages from the end of the story and just summarized as “some people didn’t like that she asked questions about the things they believed in, and so they killed her”. The kids really wanted to know how she died, but I said “No one knows for sure” (which is true, although it was almost certainly quite unpleasant). Out of the four mathematician stories, three have ended with the murder of the mathematician — so if you decide to read this book to kids, be aware of that. I checked out the Wikipedia page for Hypatia, and it’s consistent with the book, so they’re not making things worse than they actually were.
For the review, I had the kids who were there last week show the other 2 how to use the big decision tree from last week. They had seen decision trees before, so they caught on very quickly.
The drafting went fine, although some kids were confused about the mechanics of the draft (only take 1 from each pile, don’t mix the ones you’ve already picked into the current pile, etc.) Most kids picked carefully, but one picked randomly. Overall, most of the kids were pretty excited by the theme.
The prize giving went well, everyone was motivated even when they had to do somewhat complicated sums. The trickiest part was computing the total height, because it involved feet and inches. Everyone got some prizes. One of the kids really wanted to win the prize with the picture of Heracross (a bug with lots of attack).
I asked the kids whether they wanted to work alone or in pairs, 3 said pairs and 2 alone. I worked with one of the 3. They all had trouble getting started, but after some help they made pretty good progress on their own. One kid noted that they could use a split to identify a single Pokemon that wouldn’t have worked earlier but because of an earlier split was now unique. Some of the kids were drawing Pokemon by the end, but they did manage to finish the entire tree of 25 Pokemon. They used a few interesting splits that were different from our big tree, including “Is bird?” and “Name starts with ‘s'”.