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Mathematics at the JKU Science Holidays

The Institute for Algebra contributes 23 workshops to this year's JKU's summer program for children.

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We know that mathematics is fun, but we also know that not everybody knows. Our motivation for contributing to the JKU Science Holidays was to spread our excitement for our research area within the next generation.

In one workshop, the children study some of the mysteries of elementary number theory by carrying out experiments with a large-scale number line drawn with chalk on the street. They find least common left multiples, greatest common divisors, and solutions to the Chinese remainder problem by jumping around on this line according to scientifically meaningful rules. Without writing a single formula, they experience quite advanced algebraic features of the integers, for example that Z is a so-called principal ideal domain.

In a second workshop, the children study the structure of networks that play an important role in discrete mathematics and combinatorics and have many applications, for example in route planning or schedule design. They investigated how many essentially different networks can be formed from a prescribed number of nodes, and constructed models for these networks from wire and wooden balls.

Thanks to the help of 12 undergraduate students, we were able to offer one of the workshops 12 times and the other 11 times, so that many children had the opportunity to realize that mathematics is more than just calculating. We are looking forward to welcoming some of them in a few years as regular students.