Lifelong Learning New York City

Lifelong Learning at  Swarthmore: New York City

Spring 2017:

Mathematics in Nature and Human Experience (LLS 140NY)

Meets Wednesdays, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m.
March 22 – May 10, 2017
10 Hudson Yards (10th Ave. & 30th St.), 26th Floor

How are numbers and geometry implicit in both the natural and civilized worlds? For example, what do fruits and flowers reveal about number patterns? Does the Parthenon indicate that we have a favorite rectangle? How did the notion of number develop in early human history? Is there mathematics in a child's scribblings? Can we make sense of infinity? What life lessons can mathematics offer us?

As we explore these and other questions, we will discover basic mathematical truths that are both accessible and surprising. By embracing the modes of thinking that guide mathematicians, we will also discover strategies for approaching some challenges of everyday life.

The course makes use of some basic ideas from arithmetic and geometry, but without any assumption that students remember these subjects from school. The course is for “math fans” and “math phobes” alike.

Major Topics:

  • Humans count and measure: early notions of number
  • Mathematical patterns in nature: the numbers of Fibonacci
  • Basic geometry in art and architecture: the Golden Rectangle
  • Triangles and squares: the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Taming the infinite: a simple idea brings infinity into focus
  • Patterns on paper: discovering an elegant formula by doodling

The Professor:

Deb Bergstrand, Professor of Mathematics at Swarthmore. She teaches courses in such fields as abstract algebra, but particularly enjoys teaching about great ideas in mathematics to students at all levels. Her scholarly interests include graph theory and pedagogical writing.

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