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Mudd Math Fun Facts

Posted by Diego Fonstad
Diego Fonstad
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on Sunday, 10 June 2012
in Online Resources

Teachable Moment: Nice little collection of math facts curated by a Harvey Mudd math professor...

I developed Math Fun Facts in 1994 as a warm-up activity for the calculus courses I taught as a graduate student at Harvard. Calculus was the final math course that most of my students would take, and I worried that they would emerge from college with the mistaken notion that all of mathematics was "just more calculus". Most college students never see the interesting stuff that motivates mathematicians to study the subject.

So, I began to tell them "Fun Facts"---daily mathematical tidbits from all areas of mathematics (not just calculus), meant to arouse their curiosity and fascination with the subject. Fun Facts give students a glimpse that mathematics is full of interesting ideas, patterns, and new modes of thinking.

The student reaction to Fun Facts was highly positive. Once I started, I couldn't stop---students would clamor for them if I forgot to give one. They stopped me after class to discuss them, began to create their own, and were motivated to take other math courses because of the Fun Facts they learned.

I got the idea from something that one of my college professors (John Jones) did; he once wrote an interesting infinite series on the board and called it a "fun fact". I thought to myself: why not do something like this everyday and include brief fun facts from all areas of mathematics? I told myself that if I became a professor someday, I would try it...

So here, on this site, is an archive of many of the Fun Facts that my colleagues and I have collected. I launched this site on July 20, 1999 so that others might use it as a resource and repository of ideas, and it continues to grow. I hope you enjoy this site... do feel free to visit often!

Reference: http://www.math.hmc.edu/funfacts/about.shtml

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