Sharing Markov chains and the “COVFEFE” problem with kids

In 2017, the most interesting piece of math I learned can via Christopher Long and Nassim Taleb and related to the “COVFEFE” problem:

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 5.05.10 AM

I wrote about the problem here:

The most interesting piece of math I learned in 2017 -> the “covfefe” problem

It turned out that we’ve looked at Markov chains before thanks to this great video from Kelsey Houston-Edwards:

Sharing Kelsey Houston-Edward’s Markov chain video with kids

I’d forgotten about that project, but when I mentioned to my younger son that we’d be looking at Markov chains today he told me he already knew about them!

So, I started today by having the boys watch the PBS Infinite Series video again. Here’s what they thought:

Next I introduced the “COVFEFE” problem. I was really happy how quickly the boys were able to pick up on how Markov chains could be used to solve this problem.

Next we looked at Nassim Taleb’s Mathematica code – that code is so clear that the problem becomes instantly accessible to kids, which is pretty amazing.

Finally, since things were going so well this morning, I introduced the word that we’ll study tomorrow -> ABRACADABRA. The kids were able to see why the transitions in this word were different. I’m excited to see how they think through the “ABRACADABRA” problem tomorrow!

The math behind this problem really was the most interesting math that I learned in 2017. It is really important math, too, and I’m excited that the Mathematica code makes some of the ideas accessible to kids. This was a fun one!

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