Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Math Man and Fermat's Last Theorem

I have a son who really enjoys math.  He has enjoyed mathematical things such as calculators and manipulatives since he was quite young, when in play he studied and learned a lot about numbers on his own

His intense interest in math has been rather cyclical.  That's an interesting thing to me -- makes me think of Leonardo da Vinci, who had so many interests but would always come back periodically and study flight.  Allowed to do so, Peter will suddenly focus intensely on one subject for a time, then just about as suddenly put it aside and go on to something else.  He may come back to it later, or he may not.  He's done that with various things through the years, but math has been something he's consistently come back to in various forms.  As he's getting older, it's changing forms somewhat.

Just now, he thinks he'd like to be a mathematician when he grows up.  Specifically, he wants to be someone who works on solving really difficult math problems.  Someone like Andrew Wiles.

That's not Andrew Wiles in the picture, but the documentary is about him working on Fermat's Last Theorem.  Peter finds the story quite inspiring.  And it is, although it's not inspiring me to become a mathematician.  Unless someone who teaches her children math counts. ;)

The boy is 10 and is flying through Pre-Algebra right now.  In two weeks, he's covered about half a book meant to contain an entire school year's worth of material.  That's dedication.  He makes me wonder.  Right now, I wonder what I'm going to do with him for math in a few years if this trend continues.  I think I can help with calculus, assuming I can recall enough of a subject I didn't take nearly as seriously as it seems he will, but he's looking further than that, anticipating what lies beyond.  No worries, right?  I'm sure God will provide if/when the time comes. 

A recent conversation:
Me: "Peter, where are your pages of work for these [word problems]?" (for some parts he did have separate pages he'd worked the problems on, so I assumed there were some for these, too, though they were on a review page of previously mastered concepts)
Peter: "Pages of work?  I did that in my head -- it just comes like a flash!"
And he gave me one of his big grins. 
Well, who can argue with that? :) 

And last night, we were working on a few problems together of a type he'd been having some difficulties with.  He said something like, "I bet I could do this all night and never get tired!" 

Perhaps he could.  But yes, I still made him go to bed. :)


  1. So, I'm thinking to bring a couple of books your way unless you don't want them. Peter might like them someday (and perhaps even sooner than I think!) One is called "Euclid's Window" and the other is "My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos." They look interesting, but I don't see myself reading them anytime soon and (don't tell Alan) I think I have too many books. :)

    1. Thanks, Shonya! They do look interesting from what I saw on Amazon. I don't know whether Peter would be ready for them now or not. Is it really possible to have too many books? ;) Don't let me forget to give back The Book Thief, either (don't want to be one, ha!).