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Is math the language of the universe? A bilingual TED-Ed Club explores

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Student Pierre Hirschler gives a TED-Ed Club presentation, exploring math as a universal language.

In New York City, it’s common to hear ten different languages just on your walk to work in the morning. For the students at Lycée Français de New York, that kind of multicultural exposure doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors. With a combination French-English curriculum, this PreK-12 school educates students who represent more than 50 nationalities. And when the LFNY TED-Ed Club chose a topic for their final presentation, the students were drawn to language — more specifically, the possibility of a universal one.

LFNY’s presentation, titled “Math Universe,” is a collaboration that combines individual research presentations from each member of the club into a larger final piece, which was presented by club member Pierre Hirschler. Marie De Azevedo, a senior at LFNY, explains it: “We found a wider question — which was ‘Is math the language of the universe?’ — and we broke it into multiple parts. We looked at the history of wanting to unify math as one whole system or one whole concept, and we looked at why people want this, and how it works or doesn’t work.”


The TED-Ed Club at Lycée Français de New York.

When asked about his favorite discovery during his research, club member Grégoire Gindrey said, “I like the fact that there are different models in physics — relativity, Newton’s model, etc. — and we tend to think that one’s wrong and one’s right, but it actually just happens that they’re all right, but in their respective point of reference.”

The students’ daily exposure to many cultures helped give them insight into this idea. Gindrey continued, “Since we’re in a French high school, but in an American city — and especially in New York — we’re in contact with different cultures. I think we understand in some ways the notion of not having just one unified model, but different models; that helped us in our comprehension of the problem.”

Along with learning quite a bit of math, the students also honed their research and presentation skills. Gindrey says, “It was great being able to do research with others, so that if someone had a different point of view, they could always join the discussion. We could find a completely different conclusion because there were a lot of different points of view.”

Check out Lycée Français de New York’s insights on unity in math by watching their full presentation here:

This post first ran on the TED-Ed Blog. Read much more about TED’s education initiative TED-Ed »

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