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.”

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 »

## Comments (15)

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## Terrance Madisa commented on May 4 2014

Passing on a argument that a fellow classmate stated.” Math doesn’t “explain” anything about the physical world. Physics is the science of inventing mathematical relationships that allow one to predict future observations form current ones. The relationships are conceived by hypothesis and validated by experiment. Ultimately, that’s really all there is to physics. Everything else is metaphysical fluff. History shows that this strategy seems to work. There is an attempt to make the relationships as general as possible to improve their utility, and there is a penchant for elegance and simplicity that historically has been a reliable guide for formulating successful hypotheses. The equations of string theory are elegant in 11 and 26 dimension. Things called “singularities” are avoided, which theorist find ugly. And 11 simpler than 26, so is preferred. That’s about as far as string theory has gotten so far. There are no experimental confirmations to speak of yet. Since “theories”, by definition, require some experimental corroboration, it should be called the string hypothesis instead.”

## John Chapman commented on May 4 2014

Interesting.

## Maropeng Quintallion Molepo commented on May 3 2014

(14060559)

Very interesting presentation by the young fella. I especially liked the part where he illustrates how the Fibonacci diagram can be related to shapes formed by hurricanes and other earthly objects like sea shells. This is just another improvement to show that Einstein was not wrong when he said that Math is the closest we are ever going to get to explaining how the universe works and to explain the work of God. I also like how Terrance Madisha commented about the theory that his/her teacher posed a question about the simple 1+1=2 that we know so well, which raises to us the question as to whether Kurt Godel was right when he said Math itself is not complete.

## Terrance Madisa commented on May 3 2014

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I watch a lot of science shows, stuff about parallel universes, string theory, particle physics, etc. All of these physicists keep talking about how math explains this or that and leads them to theories that can describe the entire universe. I understand why math explains certain basic ideas in physics (i.e. gravity, momentum), but how is this applied to something as huge as the whole universe?

For example, a physicist was talking about how the math involved in string theories lead them to believe that there are 11 dimensions. How did they come up with that– did some equations equal the number 11, or are there 11 variables involved, or … i don’t even know. Or how does math explain the shape of the universe or the possibility that there are multiple membranes… it’s not like a math equation can magically give you the word “membranes,” so how do scientists get to this conclusion?

## Terrance Madisa commented on May 2 2014

I’ve have a math teacher who I find very wise an and talented. In one of his classes he asked the students wheather 1 + 1 is 2. Then asked are you certain that it is 2 and if so what is 2. A number a? a quantity? you can’t touch it or even explain its exitense. Furthure more you can’t explian what 1 is and why two 1’s are 2. Could it just be that 1 + 1 = 2 is nothing more than mankind trying to create some sort of rational sense in this unexplained oblivion we call space for without 1 + 1 we are lost and confused which we as humans can not tolerate.

## Jola Fyba commented on Apr 23 2014

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## Klaudyna Kuna commented on Apr 23 2014

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## kumar_rishav commented on Apr 18 2014

Reblogged this on Kumar Rishav's Blog.

## ioanaiuliana commented on Apr 17 2014

Reblogged this on Life Through A Mathematician's Eyes and commented:

Nice point of view, nice idea. I like how that with this kind of activities people can see the beauty and importance of math and also consider all the domains it touches.

## stemworksblog commented on Apr 17 2014

Reblogged this on STEM-Works Blog and commented:

Who doesn’t love a good math story?

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## Brijesh B. Mehta commented on Apr 17 2014

Reblogged this on Revolution and commented:

Something interesting about Mathematics

## Claire LESPINASSE commented on Apr 17 2014

Thanks Sylvie and David for this incredible and amazing job !

## Scripta Manum commented on Apr 16 2014

Reblogged this on Scripta Manum.