Friday, April 15, 2016

The Geometry inherent in Torah!

One of the benefits of the Frisch education is seeing the connection between Secular and Judaic Studies. Our goal is for students to see the connection between the different disciplines that they are learning and to apply what they learn in one class to other classes.

 This past week, two freshman Geometry classes participated in a two-session interdisciplinary class showing the deep connection between Geometry and Talmud. The first session was led by Rabbi Gedaliah Jaffe, a member of the Frisch Tanach and Talmud faculty. As a way of introduction, Rabbi Jaffe told the students a midrash which described the Menorah as a symbolism of knowledge, the center branch symbolizing Torah and six other branches representing other forms of knowledge including Arithmetic, Logic, and Geometry. Deepening our understanding of Torah, explained Rabbi Jaffe, allows us to further our understanding of other disciplines. The Chazon Ish was someone who embodied this reality; students were amazed to learn of the his ability to prescribe detailed descriptions of how to perform a brain surgery when he had no official medical background or degree but was “simply” a man immersed in Torah study. After he discussed the importance of Geometry in understanding Torah, Rabbi Jaffe highlighted several places in the Talmud where Geometry is needed to define halachic applications necessary for our performance of mitzvot. Rabbi Jaffe taught students the Talmudic measurements of an “amah” and “tefach” and the reason that those were used instead of inches or meters. He showed them topics in Masechet Eruvin in which the sages determined whether walking or continuing to travel on Shabbat was permitted, based on complex Geometric calculations.

Throughout the lecture, Rabbi Jaffe discussed the relevance of these ideas in modern times. He spoke about walking from Highland Park to Edison (the community where he serves as a shul Rav) or Camp Morasha to Camp Lavi. That night, the students were instructed to write about the part of the lecture that they found most interesting. Their wide range of responses - from the intricate math calculations to the anecdotal stories about our ancestors - showed us how our students have varying interests and are truly diverse learners.

The next day the two classes again combined and Mrs. Teichman and Mrs. Katz, the teachers of these two math classes, helped the students apply some of the mathematical topics that were discussed the previous day. The students were impressed by the accuracy of the rabbis’ solutions from over 1,500 years ago. Not only did the students see how the skills that they are learning in the math classroom can be applied to other classes, but they hopefully saw how Torah permeates and has practical ramifications on our daily lives in and out of the walls of Frisch.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Frisch team "Mathletes" went to Yale for the weekend!

This weekend Mrs. Sabrina Bernath, the Chair of the Frisch Math Department, and a team of six juniors went to Yale University to take part in the “Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools” (MMATHS). MMATHS is an annual event organized by students at Yale University, Columbia University, and the University of Florida. The goal of the competition is to “provide an engaging platform for high school students of all mathematics backgrounds to compete together and develop a deeper interest and appreciation for mathematics.” 

Until this year, the MMATHS exam was given only on a Saturday but through the incredible efforts of Yale students Esther Issever, a freshmen, and Mitchell Harris, a graduating senior, students from Orthodox day schools were able to compete on Sunday. 

What made this opportunity even more special was that the students and Mrs. Bernath were invited to be guests of the Slifka Center for Shabbos. All lodging was arranged by Esther and Mitchell and meals were sponsored by the Slifka Center. It was relaxing but busy Shabbos as the Frisch mathletes schmoozed with Yale students, learned from a scholar-in-residence from the Drisha Institute, played board games and ate amazing food.  

The Slifka Center at Yale Univeristy
After davening Sunday morning, Frisch was joined by teams from Yeshiva of Flatbush and Kushner. Each school had six students on their respective teams. In the first round of the competition, students worked individually and had seventy-five minutes to answer twelve questions.  

Here is a question from the individual round:
“Let w, x, y, and z be distinct integers. Call an ordering statement any true statement of the form “a<b” where a and b are each one of w, x, y,and z. What is the minimum number of distinct ordering statements necessary to determine the correct ordering of all the numbers w, x, y, z?”

As you can see from this question, this was no standard math test!

Next was the “mixer” round, where the teams were scrambled.  Each of the new groups had seventy-five minutes to work on twelve challenging problems.  The students quickly got down to business with the members of their new teams. It was evident that the students from different schools were bonding quickly over the tough problems as the room started to fill with laughter. Mark A. and Alyssa S. were members of the winning mixer round.
Mark A. and Alyssa S. competing in the "mixer" round.
An example of a question from the “Mixer” round is the following:

“On the back of this page, prove there is no function f(x) for which there exists a polynomial p(x) such that f(x) = p(x)(x +3) + 8 and f(3x) = 2f(x).”

The final round was the “Mathathon," with the original school team working as a group on seven problems sets, each consisting of three questions.  After completing a problem set, a runner brought up the team’s answers and got the next set of questions. It was a fast-paced round where the leading team changed minute to minute.

Frisch mathletes competing in the team round.
Additionally, the five strongest students from the individual round were sequestered during the competition and given a proof-based test as a tie- breaker to see who ranked the highest scorer among the three schools. Dov G., a junior at Frisch, came in second place.

Back at Frisch with new Yale swag, MMATHS T-shirts, and a metal for Dov!
Frisch lost by a small margin in the team category, but they were proud of their accomplishments in such a unique and elite competition and grateful to have spent Shabbat at Yale. It was an incredible and fun opportunity on many levels.