Saturday, August 6th, 2011...12:19 pm

Seeing mathematical leftovers

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Mime visualizes an invisible world. Generally, we expect such silent performers to press against an invisible wall or be lifted by an imaginary balloon. While such ideas can be adapted to teach mathematical ideas, the silence of a mime can also welcome an audience to make connections of their own. The whimsy of a clown can warmly welcome insights both mathematical and otherwise. Below, we see a sketch in which our only introduction is “What is it like to be the remainder? This sketch explores such a question.” What ideas do you have as you watch?

In the sketch, the clown, almost compulsively, divides objects into two groups as they emerge from his suitcase. After one show, a child from a third and fourth grade classroom wrote in a letter,

Thank you for coming to my class to teach and show us some pantomime….I especially loved the remainder act because it made me laugh. I DID see the remainder.

Did you see other ideas visualized? What ideas? Some children comment on odd and even numbers. Note that in the sketch, the clown is dividing, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 13 plungers into two groups. Suppose, instead, he had removed 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13 plungers. How many times could he have formed 2 groups, 3 groups, 6 groups? How might you explore such questions with children, youth or college students?

In class, Marcel Marceau often said,

Mime makes the invisible visible.

What mathematical ideas can this or an adaptation of this idea visualize that interest you? Think about it! I’d love to hear your ideas.

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