Dear Rule Makers,
You may have heard the phrase “there’s an exception to every rule.” That’s not true for math rules. The rules of numbers and patterns and shape are always true because they exist in an imaginary world of ideas.
Yesterday we discovered a rule for generating equivalent fractions. This is a rule that will be incredibly useful to you throughout your math career and your life. You’ll use it countless times when you’re cooking, measuring, or paying bills. But more importantly, you’ll use it to explore the beuatiful patterns that are the heart of our number system. And maybe you’ll convince yourself that those beautiful patterns are at the heart of our universe.
Surround yourself with numbers. Play with numbers. Look for patterns. If you look close enough, you may just discover a few rules that the world’s been missing.
Dear Constructors of Knowledge,
Scientists are questioners, hypothesizers, observers, experimenters, data collectors, and synthesizers. But they’re also model makers.
Sometimes, in order to really know something, you have to look at all of pieces at one time. If you’re studying something as massive as outer space, you’re going to have to make a model.
Today, we’ll model the sun’s rays hitting Earth. We know Earth’s tilt causes the angle of the sun’s rays to change at different latitudes and at different times of year. How does that affect tempearture? We can’t see the entire Earth at one time and we can’t go through an entire year in a day, so we’ll build a model.
It’s amazing to think how thoroghly Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt has shaped our human lives. What would live be like if there were no tilt? Maybe our model will offer some hints.
Dear Sentence Writers,
Man, sentences are wondrous things. A well written sentence can instantly, in the time it takes you to scan your eyes from dawning article to crepuscular period, transform nothingness into a clear and sunlit image that you’ve been waiting your whole life for someone to show you.
A good sentence is balanced; a good sentence is clear; a good sentence sounds like what it says; a good sentence tells the truth. I believe a well-written sentence can make the world a better place. But writing a good sentence is hard.
When you write a sentence you’re going to ask the simple questions: Is there a subject? Is there a verb? Did I express a complete thought? Did I capitalize the first word and punctuate at the end? But you’re also going to ask the complex questions: Is there a better way for me to say this? How will my reader understand this? Will this sentence make the world a better place?
I love old folk songs. Knowing history is about more than knowing who did what when. It’s also about trying to empathize and understand what life was like in different places and at different times. I believe listening to and singing the songs of people from different places and different times helps us do that. Even more, these old songs contain a peal of truth that keeps ringing across the world and into and beyond our own times.
So today we’ll sing lots of old songs: We’ll sing songs about freedom, songs about rambling and wanderin’, songs abour friendship, and songs about nothing at all. When we do it, think about what life was like for the people who first sang these songs and also what truths still resonate today.
Dear Theory Makers,
The world bombards our human senses with stimulation–birds chirping, sun rising, shadows stretching, stars a-twinkling. Luckily, we humans are pretty good at finding patterns in these experiences. If we’re smart, we track these patterns, combine them with our human reason, and turn them into theories about how the natural world works.
This reminds me of an argument I often have with myself: can humans know all of nature’s secrets? Sometimes, when I think of how much humans already know about the universe (especially the ideas about how it began billions of years ago) I think we can. Other times, I think nature’s just too complex for the feeble human mind to really understand.
But there’s one thing I know for sure: It’s always worth trying.
Dear Probabalistic Thinkers,
There are very few certainties in life. Everything else is based on probability. Even some things that seem like certainties are really only probabalities that are extremely likely.
Every choice you make in your life will be based on probability. What should I wear today? Is it going to rain? Will it snow? Will the sun come out behind those clouds? What kind of car should I buy? Which classes should I take in high school and in college? Who should I become friends with?
Learning to think probabalistically is difficult. Our brains weren’t designed that way. But like almost everything, it’s something we can learn to do. But it isn’t easy.
Dear Book Readers,
There are many ways to find things out about the world. I like to do it by reading books.
I don’t think there’s a better way to explore an idea than by reading a book (or a bunch of books). What’s more, books help us leave the everyday world and learn about a time or place that we can’t visit any other way. Most importantly, books can explore a future that’s not yet been imagined.
I have a slew of books I’ve checked out from the library that I think you’ll enjoy. They’re new, they’re spectacular, and they’ll remind you why reading is such a worthwhile pursuit.