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MATH 12 — Math in the Wild: Using Mathematical Thinking to Solve Messy Real-World Problems

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Oct 16—Nov 13
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 29
Unit: 1
Tuition: $305
Instructor(s): Keith Devlin, Gary Antonick
Limit: 48
Status: Open
On-campus course
7:00—8:50 pm
Oct 16—Nov 13
5 weeks
Drop By
Oct 29
1 Unit
Keith Devlin, Gary Antonick
Typical math class problems are precisely formulated and have unique, correct answers. That does not reflect the way mathematics is most commonly used today in the everyday world, where problems tend to be messy and not well defined, and may require a range of different solutions. For example, how does a company like UPS schedule its package routings to maximize revenue, minimize costs, meet contractual delivery times, and set prices? How can the Centers for Disease Control identify a serious virus outbreak early enough to take action that prevents it from becoming an epidemic? Using mathematical thinking to solve questions like these requires deciding which factors to concentrate on, where and how to apply mathematical ideas and structures, and if and when to “do math.”

Much of this course will be a conversation between the two instructors, bringing in members of the class at intervals. Throughout, we will find ourselves constantly reflecting on what exactly is mathematics and what makes it so incredibly powerful as a tool to understand and achieve things in the world.

This course requires knowledge of high school mathematics through Algebra 2. While calculus is not required, some familiarity with calculus and calculus-based mathematics will be beneficial.

In addition to co-teaching this course, Keith Devlin will host a free public lecture titled “Finding Fibonacci” on October 17.

Grade restriction: No letter grade.

Keith Devlin, Senior Researcher and Executive Director, H-STAR Institute, Stanford

Keith Devlin is the author of thirty-one books, several for the general reader. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and “The Math Guy” on National Public Radio’s popular magazine program, Weekend Edition. A popular blogger on mathematics, education, and technology, he also writes a monthly online column, “Devlin’s Angle,” for the Mathematical Association of America and is a regular commentator for The Huffington Post. He received a PhD from the University of Bristol.

Gary Antonick, Visiting Scholar, H-STAR Institute, Stanford

Gary Antonick is an instructor at Stanford, the High School of East China Normal University (HSEFZ School) in Shanghai, and at Google, where he teaches intuitive problem-solving and visual thinking. Since 2016, he has been working with Next Generation Learning Challenges, creating scalable, web-based learning solutions for high schools worldwide. He was also the long-time writer of The New York Times’s weekly math column “Numberplay,” in which professional mathematicians and the lay public collaborated to produce original solutions to math challenges. He received an MBA from Harvard.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Keith Devlin, Introduction to Mathematical Thinking (ISBN 978-0615653631)