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The Gift of Years

What?! Another birthday so soon!? No, you haven’t lost 6 months of your life, and The Count isn’t 41… yet! Due to the overwhelming popularity of my Birthday article, it became clear to me that even those people that weren’t born during the awesome year of 1969 would like to be able to see their own age in huge-numbered detail.

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A Hard Lesson Learned

Have you ever had a problem stuck in your head, and you couldn’t find the answer? I was recently reminded of a problem I first came up with while doing a statistics workbook the summer of my 3rd grade year (yes, my math-teacher mother gave us workbooks to do during summer break… hey, it got results). The book dealt with dice and the probabilities of a 1 showing on a 6-sider, or the sum of 2 rolled dice being 7, etc. but my question had a twist I couldn’t quite solve. Now it’s easy to see that the probability of rolling a 1 on a 6-sided die is 1 in 6, but what probability exists, in rolling 2 dice, of seeing at least one 1 (on either die, or both)?

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Streaking surprise

I’m a football fan… well, more specifically the NFL. I hear that colleges other than the one I went to actually have their own teams and that quite a lot of people think that the outcomes of these “college football games” are important, but I never saw the appeal. Anyway, as I said, I follow the NFL. This year, as the season has proceeded, I’ve found myself noticing quite a few long winning and losing streaks occuring this year. With 2 teams reaching 10-0, and a few teams having streaks of 6 and 7 wins (or losses), I decided to track the actual numbers and determine just how abnormal this season is.

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Discretely simple

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I like math. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t run around solving Fermat’s Last Theorem for fun on Sunday nights, or anything like that. Perhaps it would be more clear to say I enjoy math, for many reasons, not the least of which is, when you prove something in math, it’s true every time!

Since merely saying, “I can’t find a contradictory example” is never accepted as “it’s always true”, mathematical proofs are often filled with a multitude of complex concepts and references to other also very complex proofs. It’s very refreshing, I think, to find a few that are so simple and elegant, they make you wonder if there aren’t very simple proofs for those other theorems, that we just haven’t discovered yet. Here I present two of my favorite math proofs. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
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Litter By Numbers

About two years ago, I got interested in Geocaching1. I call it “organized littering”. Essentially, people have taken the time to hide caches (usually tupperware containers full of bric-a-brac) all over the world. They then log the lat/long coordinates of their stash, and enter them along with a description on the GeoCaching site2. The rest of us use that site to find caches near where we’ll be, and off we go using our portable GPS units to find these little pockets of fun all over the world.

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Alternative Math Methods


A lot of math is broken down into processes. Start with a problem, do this, do that and, voila, you have the answer. Most people in America learn the same processes for doing most basic arithmetic, and it’s easy to forget there might be other ways to solve these problems. The positional decimal system developed by the Indians (of India) is the standard taught in every school I’ve ever been in, but it’s not the only way to multiply two numbers1. The following is a description of another method I like for its enforced structure and visual guides.

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