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Alice in Numberland

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, had a degree in mathematics from Christ Church, Oxford University. While his literary classic is full of rhymes and riddles, you may not know that he embedded many mathematical puzzles in Alice’s journey as well. Dr. Asmita Sodhi, a mathematics professor at Dalhousie University, took us down the rabbit hole and showed us that what seemed like Alice’s nonsensical calculations were really computations in various mathematical bases. The Mad Hatter’s preoccupation with time and numbers had hidden math value as well: convert the “”on his hat from a number of days into weeks, then multiply by the consecutive numbers two to six and you will get answers that are cyclic permutations of the original answer. How clever! Dr. Sodhi explained Zeno’s Paradox (Carroll’s favorite philosopher) and demonstrated its application in the chapter, “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles”, revealing further mathematical secrets. Alice’s experience learning how to hold the Duchess’ baby (that turned into a pig) as the Duchess raced off to a croquet game, led to interactive and fun investigations with Möbius strips. By the end of the seminar, and many calculations later, we were convinced that the story was really about “Alice in Numberland”. While there were 25 online participants, more were present in-person at Dalhousie University. Mr. Eric Kershaw and I enjoyed the mathematical professional development and students Owen Xu ’27 and William Larder ‘26 gained further insight into the many mathematical patterns and connections, and in this case, to a famous literary classic. It was a great evening. 
 
Taya Shields
Junior School Director


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King’s-Edgehill School is located in Mi'kma'ki, the unceded ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq People.