From a Spreadsheet Problem to the Umbral Calculus: A Mathematical Odyssey
I'm planning to write a paper where I describe how a colleague's challenge to come up with an Excel formula to compute a weighted average of grades led me to make a couple of mathematical conjectures, and how I was able to prove the conjectures and solve the problem. Along the way, I got a lot of help from many people and I discovered a lot of combinatorial mathematics that I had not known, including the Binomial Inversion Formula and the Umbral calculus. In describing this odyssey I will explore the social nature of mathematics and the different ways that people from different disciplines approach mathematical problems. Also, I hope to show that experiences of this sort can be replicated in the classroom through a problem-based method of learning.