Wednesday, May 27, 2009

teaching the Golden Mean

It goes like this...
Testing the situation, I say... "This is a fraud." The student looks baffled, so I back away and continue my rounds about the science fair. It is far from a high powered event, but it does allow students to explore a topic which they love.
I asked staff to pick their favorite exhibit.
Most staff chose a student who explored the Golden ratio.

Is this irrational number real? Yes.

Have irrational humans stretched it into the unreal? Yes.

The student had clearly impressed the masses. He had done it through great effort, however, he had not done thorough research.
I saw him at the end of the school day. I said that I had a meeting and had to run. I handed him an article by a mathematician, who wrote about the improper usage of the Golden Ratio (including examples the student had used). I asked him to read it and consider whether he deserved a prize.
I ended up staying late at work so we could chat before I left. I had provided a time bomb to his brain and I wanted to touch base. So I waited in the garden while he was in a meeting.
When he arrived after his meeting, I spoke of the Golden Mean and how science needs to be centered to be beautiful. I showed him the pile of ballots with his name. Praised him for his hard work. And then told him that in the realm of science he had failed. He had shown examples that have been proved wrong. I asked him to write an essay looking at the Golden Ratio from the center. I told him to learn from this experience. Tomorrow when the essay completes his project, he will win first prize.


  1. I want to see the project and read the have piqued my inner mathmetician.

  2. You are a wise man. This will probably be a powerful learning experience for this student. Taking notes...

  3. msklem--- I am curious to see what he hands me. I told him it would be best to publish it in the daily school paper. I am so mean.

    Kathryn--- wise... hmmm. some folk may beg to argue. Thanks.

  4. when i finished reading this, i closed my eyes and thought "what a great teacher my friend is!" my daughter has been blessed with several wonderful teachers as friends and role models and you are included in that group.
    (you, too, mslem!)

  5. Sometimes, we gotta be cruel to be kind, eh? Wow, talk about not shying away from difficult moments. So many would never follow through to that extent.


  6. Yes, agree with all... a wise teacher, indeed.....

  7. Red, Daisy, Giggles...

    Heads are spinning as we wonder about... What is truth?

  8. You have my head spinning, Wayne, this being my first introduction to such a term as the Golden Ratio. I went to Wikipedia to learn a bit, but wonder: While it surprises me not to find such a possibility within mathematics, what purpose does it serve? I read of its use within various professions, but fail to see what is gained if you so proportion your statue rather than simply crate it otherwise....

  9. Jim--- I am not the expert to try to explain. But some how it became known for it's ability to produce beauty. The myth grew and grew. Those who believe, have faith that using it will make things more beautiful. who knows?

    I wonder if Mich uses the golden ratio?


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