Professors share favorite brainteasers

Computer Science Mathematics
September 17, 2015

Mathematics and computer science are fascinating disciplines. Their theories are applicable across a spectrum of fields — from anthropology to zoology – and they undergird the processes of the world around us.

To review all the contest problems & solutions, please watch the Youtube playlist.

Who you learn from— and how they teach — can be almost as important as what you learn. Denison mathematics and computer science professors are tops in their fields and they care a lot about how they teach, using innovative and creative ways to share their material.

These professors recently created a series of puzzles (originally part of a contest) for students interested in mathematics and computer science. Each video poses a question, while the complement leads you through the thinking to arrive at the solution. Even non-mathematicians can give these brain-teasers a whirl.

The videos are a good way to get to know Denison faculty, see how they can break complex ideas into chewable chunks of information, and teach their students across the spectrum of knowledge.

For example, in the Snowplow Problem, Professor Matt Kretchmar outlines social choice theory, essentially how to be the most fair to every citizen of a democratic society. In his problem, three townships with a total population of 10,000 people share ten snowplows. The goal is to figure out how to fairly distribute the snowplows.

Kretchmar outlines one possible solution, by looking at the distribution of people across the townships. Using social choice theory, you can approximate a fair distribution of snowplows across the three townships. You can also determine what would happen if you changed the number of snowplows and how that would affect the distribution.

Understanding the world, using practical applications that make data work for people, that’s the mathematics and computer science of today.

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