The Place and Purpose of Combinatorics

  • The Place and Purpose of Combinatorics

    Zach Hurdle, Max Warshauer, and Alex White
    The union of curriculum goals intersects with math education standards.
    The desire to persuade students to avoid strictly memorizing formulas is a recurring theme throughout discussions of curriculum and problem solving (e.g., Rusczy n.d.; Schoenfeld 1992). In combinatorics, a branch of discrete mathematics, problems can be easy to write—identify a few categories, add a few restrictions, specify an outcome—yet extremely challenging to solve. “Because combinatorial problems allow for alternative approaches to solution, they can help discourage the [formula-memorizing] syndrome” (English 1991, p. 472).
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