Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Unit 2

Combinatorics Counts

Papyrus Rhyind Papyrus

Counting is an act of organization, a listing of a collection of things in an orderly fashion. Sometimes it's easy; for instance counting people in a room. But listing all the possible seating arrangements of those people around a circular table is more challenging. This unit looks at combinatorics, the mathematics of counting complicated configurations. In an age in which the organization of bits and bytes of data is of paramount importance—as with the human genome—combinatorics is essential.

Unit Goals

Video Transcript


Counting things seems so simple. Children do it intuitively, connecting a thing with fingers to say how many. Finding efficient and interesting ways to organize things and information is what the field of mathematics, known as Combinatorics, is all about.



Not only can combinatorics help to organize complicated sets, but it can also reveal whether or not any organization inherently exists in large, seemingly "random" sets.


Shotgun Sequencing

Using combinatorics, this interactive looks at the ordering of DNA. You will create structure by building a directed graph and evaluating it in a mathematical way.


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