Monday, March 17, 2014

How is Geometry applicable to a Jew's Life?

“Many of you have asked us, and probably more of you simply wonder to yourselves, “How is Geometry applicable to ‘real-life’?” While we cannot necessarily answer how it will be useful in YOUR life, we can show you how Geometry was extremely relevant to people hundreds of years ago.”

The Geometry behind Eruvin.

With these words, Mrs. Elissa Katz, a second-year math teacher at and graduate of The Frisch School, introduced “The Circle of Life”, an Integration Presentation of Gemarah and Geometry last week. The idea originated as Mrs. Katz was teaching her 9th grade Geometry students a unit exploring how trigonometric functions (remember “SOH-CAH-TOA”?) related to area of circles and squares. She recalled studying a Talmudic text that discussed a scenario in which sailors had to calculate their ship’s distance from shore to determine whether or not they could continue in their journey, as the Sabbath was fast approaching and it is forbidden by Torah law to travel outside certain parameters of a civilized city on the Sabbath. With the help of Rabbi Gedaliah Jaffe, a Talmud teacher at Frisch, and Mrs. Shira Teichman, another second-year teacher who teaches the parallel Geometry class, the three teachers created a lesson surrounding the said text as well as several other texts that incorporate Geometry into discussions surrounding rabbinical explications to derive practical laws.

Rabbi Jaffe explaining the mathematics behind determining an Eruv.

Last week, around fifty Geometry students assembled in an assembly hall at Frisch and were provided with a packet of the Talmudic texts and a Guided Worksheet that asked mathematical questions relating to the ideas of the lesson. The students were intrigued by the natural synthesis of mathematical ideas and Torah law and were excited to apply their knowledge to everyday encounters. Read some of their reflections below!

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“Today … I was able to use the tools I have learned in math class and relate it to real-life situations. It changed my perspective about the amazing world around us. It taught me how to [connect knowledge] that wouldn't necessarily seem to have any significant connection. It was a wonderful experience."
- Sara Knoll

“The program finally answered the question so many students ask themselves: ‘When am I ever going to use Geometry after high school?’ Rabbi Jaffe shared cases in the Gemara regarding T’chum Shabbos where many of the skills we have learned this year are used in the process of putting up an eiruv, and to show how far one may travel outside an eiruv on Shabbos. The program was not only educational, but very interesting as well, and I hope to have many more like this during my upcoming years here at Frisch.”
- Adam Auerbach

"Geometry is useless!!" Those are the typical words of any high school student who is learning Geometry in math class. This week …we had the opportunity to take [our] understanding of Geometry and bring it to a whole new level …with Rabbi Jaffe, a Gemara teacher who integrated Geometry and Gemara into one lesson. As a group we learnt many different cases that that require us to use Geometry. As a freshman class, we can certainly say "We learned something out of the ordinary today!"
- Aliza Pavel

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