The Global Math Project 2017
How big is this year for mathematics? Big enough to get a stand alone sentence. 2017 is also a prime number, which befits The Global Math Project — as this is a “prime” year for mathematics. In just a few months, the goal of one million students experiencing an extraordinary piece of mathematics — called Exploding Dots — will reverberate around the planet! Through the over 300 GMP Ambassadors spread out over 60 countries, students all over the world will be guided towards the website www.theglobalmathproject.org. It is there they will see and experience one of the most captivating and connected piece of mathematics the world has ever seen!
What is Exploding Dots you ask? In the simplest and most detached terms, it involves doing mathematics within the concrete framework of dots to do familiar operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In fact, some of the early procedures will be very familiar with children working with place value in base 10. But, soon — very soon — students will be catapulted to high school polynomial division when they start playing with different bases — 2, 3, 5, 10…anything really…-4, 3/2…Anything!
Which brings us to the magical door of base x. And this is where the real fun will begin for one million students this coming October!
The goal of The Global Math Project is to bring joyous mathematics that is unifying across all cultures and customs to everyone! So, in more important attached and emotional terms, Exploding Dots is the lost portal to not only seeing how so much of K to 12 mathematics is connected by one idea — but, like many gateways(literal and figurative), Exploding Dots is the door for exploring mathematics with curiosity, play and connection. This is the bedrock of how/why children learn. Which means this is the bedrock of how children think mathematically.
I was fortunate to have seen the power of Exploding Dots by its creator, James Tanton, at NCTM in San Francisco last year. In just over an hour, James took us on a mind-blowing ride — literally, as eyes were popping out and mouths were agape at many tables — from elementary school mathematics to high school calculus. All with just dots! In fact, it goes even beyond that. It goes into university mathematics, and even unsolved problems in research.
Here is excerpt from an email that I received from Richard Hoshino, one of our Global Math Ambassadors in Canada, which hints at that deep potential.
In 1996, as a high school senior, I wrote the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), arguably a harder math contest than the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). The last question of the 1996 paper is as follows:
Determine (with proof) whether there is a subset X of the integers with the following property: for any integer n there is exactly one solution of a+2b=n with a and b both belonging to set X.
The majority of us (me included) got shut out on this problem, since it was hard to make progress on this problem. One idea is to attempt to construct some set X that satisfies the property, starting with small negative and positive numbers. But it’s hard to make progress, given that one needs to rigorously justify that any integer n can be represented in the form a+2b in exactly one way. Here is where the Exploding Dots machine comes to the rescue!
Exploding Dots to the rescue…indeed! I won’t share Richard’s crafty insight just yet, but I will share a James Tanton video that energetically captures the mathematical rabbit holes that Richard Hoshino hints at finding.
I am over-the-moon to be a highly involved Ambassador in this once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. I am equally excited that the small, Canadian company, Scolab(www.scolab.com) that I work for as a math consultant, is creating the interactive experience of base machines and islands with beautiful and charming design. Math is beautiful, and so should be the experience. Creating a magical landscape with eye-popping colours and whimsical actions will support the joy, humanness, accessibility, relevance, understanding, surprise, delight and wonder that exists in the framework of The Global Math Project.
This fall, not only will the mathematics be decluttered, but so will its purpose. Make mathematics a joyful and human experience. So that it transcends and permeates the hearts and minds of all the countries and cultures that have contributed to the beautiful and long history of mathematics.
Yes, James. Mathematics is finally coming home in 2017.
Sunil Singh is the author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and an Ambassador for The Global Math Project.