This year we were featuring permutations at the JKU summer program for children.
Is there a chance to motivate children to think about math problems during their summer vacation? According to our experience during the science holidays, the chances are not too bad. In the workshops we contribute to the program of the JKU Science Holidays 2023, we explain the concept of a permutation, a fundamental mathematical object in abstract algebra. Despite their algebraic nature, permutations can be easily visualized as small boxes with some holes at the top and at the bottom, with tubes in the interior that connect each hole at the top to one of the holes at the bottom. Using these models, participants of the workshop explored various properties of graphs. This way, they spend several hours doing exciting mathematics without ever adding or multiplying any numbers, and maybe without even realizing that what they do is mathematics.
We would like to thank our undergraduate volunteers who serve as instructors of the workshops and spread their excitement for the subject to the next generation. Thanks to their help, we are able to offer the workshop altogether 10 times. We are very much looking forward to welcoming some of the participants in a few years as regular mathematics students at JKU.