# IntMath Newsletter - Understanding math formulas, World Math Day

By Murray Bourne, 19 Feb 2009

In this Newsletter:

1. Math tips - Understanding Math Formulas

2. World Math Day (4 Mar)

3. From the math blog

4. Final thought - Abraham Lincoln and math

## 1. Math Tips - Understanding Math Formulas

Last Newsletter I wrote some tips on how to **learn** math formulas.

But many students also have trouble **understanding** math formulas so I have written a special set of tips here:

How to understand math formulas.

Of course, learning and understanding go together very closely. You need to learn before you can understand, and understanding helps learning.

## 2. World Math Day (4 Mar)

World Math Day this year falls on Mar 4th. What will your school do on Math Day? If there are no plans yet, you may wish to join in this activity.

They are aiming for a world record. The challenge is to "correctly answer more than 182,445,169 math questions in 48 hours." Participants will compete in real time with people from all over the world.

Over half a million students have registered already. Each round lasts for 60 seconds and it's suitable for 5 to 18 year-olds (you are given age-appropriate questions). There is a practice competition so you can try it out before the real thing. You can even win an iPod Touch.

Over 20,000 schools participated in 2008.

## 3. From the math blog

1) Your body in numbers

The human body is an amazing "machine". Read on for some facts about our bodies.

2) Intel Schools of Distinction - real-life math gets the nod

Some schools stand out in the way they approach math and science education. See what some of the winning schools did.

3) SodaPlay simulations

SodaPlay allows the user to create interesting shapes connected by springs. It’s a fun way to learn some physics.

4) Fly Carbon Neutral

Here's one way of reducing carbon output with a voluntary user pays system.

## 4. Final Thought - Abraham Lincoln and math

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the US president best known for fighting against slavery. His self-study of math makes quite an interesting story. From the *Lincoln Bicentennial* site [no longer available]:

Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong learner.

His education began at his mother’s knee. With less than two years of formal education, though, he managed to become one of our most eloquent Presidents. The desire to rise above his poor beginnings and sheer perseverance led him to teach himself math as a child and later to pursue a career in law. Throughout his life, he continued to educate himself.

And this, from Abraham Lincoln's Short Autobiography of 1860:

He studied and nearly mastered the Six-books of Euclid (geometry) since he was a member of Congress. He began a course of rigid mental discipline with the intent to improve his faculties, especially his powers of logic and language. Hence his fondness for Euclid, which he carried with him on the circuit till he could demonstrate with ease all the propositions in the six books; often studying far into the night, with a candle near his pillow, while his fellow-lawyers, half a dozen in a room, filled the air with interminable snoring.

[Euclid, for those of you who are a bit rusty, was the Greek mathematician who proved many laws of geometry, such as the angles of a triangle add to 180°, and the external angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the opposite 2 internal angles.]

Euclid's approach of proving geometrical statements had a profound effect on Lincoln. This form of thinking helped Lincoln to win his political arguments.

Until next time, enjoy learning.

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