Randall Munroe Explains Modeling With Math

Randall Munroe, creator of the webcomic xkcd, from a TED talk that’s making the rounds:

What I love is that math lets you take some things you know and just by moving symbols around on a piece of paper find out something you didn’t know that’s very surprising. I have a lot of stupid questions and I love that math gives the power to answer them sometimes.

If you want to understand the Common Core’s fourth math practice standard, “Model with Mathematics,” you could do a lot worse than studying the mental feats Munroe performs in every single post of his What If? blog.

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Jason Dyer:

I think the bit immediately prior is worth quoting as well, even if it’s a bit harsher:

And I love calculating these kinds of things, and it’s not that I love doing the math. I do a lot of math, but I don’t really like math for its own sake.

Jim Hays:

Like on Mythbusters, Monroe is rarely content to stop with answering the question as stated: he generally keeps going bigger, faster, taller, or hotter until something explodes.

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

6 Comments

  1. I think the bit immediately prior is worth quoting as well, even if it’s a bit harsher:

    And I love calculating these kinds of things, and it’s not that I love doing the math. I do a lot of math, but I don’t really like math for its own sake.

  2. AAAAAH, my two favorite things on the internet are happening in the same place. Now XKCD needs to reference dy/dan and the cycle will be complete.

  3. Monroe’s “What if” series does a excellent job of building ‘sequels’. Like on Mythbusters, Monroe is rarely content to stop with answering the question as stated: he generally keeps going bigger, faster, taller, or hotter until something explodes. By the time you see how the pattern grows, he’s piqued your curiosity and hooked you in for the ride.

  4. I agree with timfc. I’ve used xkcd comics before with kids – the “My normal approach is useless” one with the math symbols that can’t find love, the one where it shows pi and then in the digits is “help I’m trapped in an alternate universe” etc. Love it. Dan I’ll see you Friday in Fresno!

  5. Jim:

    Like on Mythbusters, Monroe is rarely content to stop with answering the question as stated: he generally keeps going bigger, faster, taller, or hotter until something explodes.

    Ha!