Sharing Nassim Taleb’s ideas about virus models with kids

I saw a great Twitter thread on virus spreading models from Nassim Taleb last week. I’d been meaning to share the ideas in the thread with my kids but didn’t get around to it until today.

The original thread is here:

The tweet I wanted to focus on specifically is here:

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So, tonight I used the code that Taleb shared and talked through the graphs with the boys. At the end we talked a bit about why Taleb’s conclusion was that these models were unreliable for decision making.

Here’s how my younger son reacted to the graphs:

Here’s how my older son reacted to Taleb’s graphs:

I think talking through some of Nassim Taleb’s ideas is a great way for kids to get some insight into how to think about the virus spread and also to see some of the dangers / limitations of modeling. For today’s project the important lesson is when you don’t know with any certainty how the models work, you really need to proceed with maximal caution.

Revisiting the angle sum arctan(1/2) + arctan(1/3)

Today we did a 3d printing project revisiting an angle sum that we’d looked at last week -> arctan(1/2) + arctan(1/3).

We started by reviewing how to approach the sum using complex numbers:

Next my older son explained a geometric way to approach the problem:

Now we went to Mathematica to create the 4 triangles using the RegionPlot3D function. It is a nice geometry exercise to have kids describe the boundary of a simple 2d object:

At the end of the day I had my younger son use the shapes to assemble the 3×2 rectangle and describe how this arrangement showed that the original angles added up to 45 degrees:

I like using 3d printing to help kids see math in a different way. The problem today was originally inspired from a section on complex numbers in Art of Problem Solving’s Precalculus book. It was nice to be able to use it to explore a little bit of 2d geometry, too.