Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: Mathematicus Dramaticus
Primary Goal: Students will explore the history of math and learn that math can be fun.
Secondary Goals:
Learn about mathematicians Improve acting skills
Understand math concepts Write creatively
Prep Time
1 hour

-- Individuals
-- Small groups

Research Sources

Art supplies
The history of mathematics extends from before the time of Ahmes, the scribe who wrote the Rhind papyrus, to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. The study of math shows that those who pursue this field are exploring life and the world around us, and the desire to understand the unknown fuels the mind of most mathematicians.

Assign each student a mathematician from a different period in history to research that person's contributions to mathematics and how they changed the way people think.

Have each student present his or her selected mathematician to the class where they talk about the subject's background and what led them to study mathematics. Have each student present a short lesson based on what their mathematician is known for.

Divide the class in groups of three. Have each group choose one of the three students' mathematicians, and have that student play the role of that mathematician. The other two students could play supporting roles. The play should include a math lesson from the regular classroom curricula.

Have each student keep a log of one 24-hour period, listing every time they encountered a math concept. Remind them of basic everyday things: Whenever they take a drink they are dealing with volume; When they walk through a door they are encountering a rectangle; When they look at a computer screen they are looking at 72 pixels per inch; When they purchase a hamburger at a fast food restaurant they are getting a quarter pound of meat, etc.

 1.  Divide the class into different groups of three and have each group select a mathematical certainty. Then have the group write a children's story where the certainty becomes no longer true, but in the end the hero of the story makes it true again. Use easy-to-understand concepts such as a triangle has only two sides, 1 + 1= 6, etc.
 2.  Assemble the stories into a bound book with a title and a cover. Visit a class of younger students and read the stories to them. Have a follow up question and answer period to stimulate discussion.

Poll the students to find if the exercises changed their perception of math. Some questions to ask: Are you more aware of the role that math plays in our lives? Do you find that math lessons can be more fun if you relate them to your everyday life? Do you understand how mathematicians can be so passionate about what they do?