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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 14

Length: 1 - 12.5 min.

Grade Levels:
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Professional Development

Mathematics and Technology


Life by the Numbers Educational Highlights

Life By the Numbers Educational Highlights shows how people from all walks of life are using cutting edge computer models and specially designed software programs to apply mathematical applications to an amazing variety of real life problems. Fascinating digital application helping world class skaters increase speed and precision is just one of the ways these “best educational moments” of the original seven hour series video segments urge students to learn mathematics by engaging in real-world problem solving.

The program segments explore a variety of areas in modern life that use mathematics and computer models in sports, work, education, exploration, chance, technology and life in general. The segments in this series were selected by teachers for each segment’s specific relevance to the high school mathematics curriculum.

Episode Guide

1. Introduction by actor, Danny Glover (1 minute 20 seconds)

2. Module 1: Mathematics and Monsters — Biomechanics uses mathematical relationships to explore the design of living things, in this case to design monsters for the movies. This segment helps students understand the relationship between height and volume. (11:30)

3. Module 2: New Geometry — This segment helps students understand exponential growth and fractal design. One computer scientist uses fractal computer models to describe forms in nature such as flowers and trees; another uses a computer to define an L system—which describes the basic element of a small part, of a tree for instance. (8:45)

4. Module 3: Artificial Life — Biologist Tom Ray designed a computer program using algorithms to build a model of an artificial rain forest to replicate and explain the process of evolution. (9:32)

5. Module 4: Linear Perspective — An art history professor describes how the new-found ability to mathematicize space changed the course of Western civilization, focusing on the development of linear perspective. (6:27)

6. Module 5: Pictures from Numbers — A graphic artist, computer animation expert and mathematician combine art, mathematics. and supercomputers to visualize intergalactic space and the birth of the universe a room sized computer screen. (9:08)

7. Module 6: Crunching Numbers — To help them determine strategy for a particular opponent, football coaches nationwide use computers to turn a game’s video into mathematical statistics, giving information about the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. (6:08)

8. Module 7: A Fine Line — Coaches, biomechanics, and athletes use mathematical computer models to graph an athlete’s accomplishments in events to improve performance, i.e. Is a triple axel higher than a double axel or are the skaters just rotating faster” or the most efficient stride for a long-distance runner.” (12.24)

9. Module 8: House Rules — A teacher of mathematics of games and gambling helps students understand calculating odds by using a device called a Galton Board to show why winning big in Las Vegas is not very likely. (8:44)

10. Module 9: Reading Minds — This segment shows why Gallup succeeded n picking Roosevelt to win the presidency when others failed. Another pollster goes through the process of random sampling to determine outcomes. (6:20)

11. Module 10: Ground Truth — Cartographers and engineers demonstrate the precision mapping system they have developed for the US Air Force and show how it was used to negotiate boundaries for Bosnia (7:03)

12. Module 11: Circles, Angles and Echoes — The program introduces the early Greek use of geometry (the word is Greek and means measuring the earth) to establish the spherical shape of the planet and the mapping of uncharted areas of America and the oceans. (10:18)

13. Module 12: Machines of the Future — Researchers are pushing the frontiers of what personal computers can do (digital personal servants). The program also describes Boolean algebra, the basis of the modern computer and introduces the three different operations that can be performed on x and y: x and y, x or y, and x is not y. (11:09)

14. Module 13: Networking Earth/Data Mining — These segments address how to find the shortest distance between two points and uncover the meaning in vast amounts of data. A queuing (waiting line) theorists uses mathematical computer programs to find the greatest efficiencies for telephone lines, etc. and another organizes data digitally for marketing purposes, for instance. such as consumer buying habits. (12:30)

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