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4th-graders figure out how voting is different from counting

from University of California, Irvine — By: Dr. Don Saari

Scientists have long used elections as a laboratory for elaborate analyses of making choices. One of the masters in the field is Dr. Donald Saari, a mathematician at the University of California, Irvine. During a classroom visit 21 years ago, Saari witnessed firsthand how with innocence coupled with awakened curiosity and insight freed from years of blind acceptance standard election procedures, even fourth-graders can cut through the conceptual difficulties to achieve a critical understanding of the subtle difference between voting and counting. This brings us to the coming end-of year Waves and Packets poll that will ask the standard question of what has been the year's most significant discovery in physics and astronomy. Probably most people will say the Higgs, but that will not be very interesting considering the breadth of discovery in our field. So, we will implement a scheme that flattens the effect of the very much deserved attention on the Higgs. In the meantime, consider two points raised by Saari's story: How do we foster creativity and inventiveness in our students and colleagues, and how much fun it can be to visit a K-12 classroom. more

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