Does Math Matter? with Boaler, Ellenberg, and Strogatz

Saw this nice panel discussion from the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday via a Steven Strogatz tweet:

I’m glad that discussions like this one are happening (and being made public). It is definitely worth the 35 minutes if you are interested in math.

In the second half of the discussion each of the panelists gives a short math question for the crowd to discuss. I thought it would be fun to try out these questions with the boys this morning. My younger son slept in, so I went with my older son first.

I want to present the videos without much comment. The panelists discuss a variety of different solutions to these problems during the talk and there is some overlap between the solutions they discuss and approaches my sons used. The point of this project wasn’t the specific solutions, though, it was simply to show (i) how two kids would think about the problems and (ii) that it can be fun to have math conversations like these ones with kids.

The kids’ thoughts on Ellenberg’s question were fascinating to me. My younger son’s approach to Strogatz’s question was also interesting (this is the last video in the sequence), though maybe not the most exciting video to watch since his approach involves thinking in near silence for several minutes.

Here’s my older son talking through the problems.

Jo Boaler’s question:


Jordan Ellenberg’s question:

[note: sorry for the camera focus issues -I didn’t notice the problem while we were filming. Unfortunately the focus issues continue until my son starts writing on the board at 2:33. The first half of this video should be put in the “listen only” category 😦 ]


Steven Strogatz’s question:


Now my younger son.

Jo Boaler’s question:


Jordan Ellenberg’s question:


Steven Strogatz’s question:




2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. what part of the discussion has their questions? Does Jordan talk about the resolution to his paradox?

    • The discussion happens in the 2nd half of the talk. He doesn’t resolve the problem, but instead talks about the connection to Bertrand Russell.

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