Wednesday, January 31, was Dalhousie University’s first Math Circles event of 2024. The theme was “How Many Handshakes?” and it was a fun evening of puzzling, predicting, and problem solving. Our students worked in small groups to solve the puzzles and did an excellent job presenting their solutions to all present. Counting techniques are particularly important in many areas of mathematics, and this seminar did an excellent job engaging participants as they were introduced to the field of combinatorics. The classic “handshake problem” was explored with variations of complexity added as the counting themes were understood. The first problem was to determine the number of handshakes between a given number of people, noting that each person had to shake hands with every other person present. You can try it yourself: how many handshakes would be needed if there were nine people in a room? (answer: 36 handshakes).
Using patterns and induction, our students were the first to produce the general formula: and explain why it worked to the group. Time flew by as our students worked collaboratively to solve the increasingly challenging problems, enjoying the camaraderie of math friends and, of course, the free pizza and drinks that were provided. Hats off to students Phil Bednara ’28, Tracy Dong ’28, Altyn Hood ’29, Max Proctor ’27, Ruari Ryan ’29, and Matipa Simbanegavi ’29, who put their heads together and figured out many of the problems posed. Dalhousie University Math Circle seminars explore a different topic each month and appeal to students from Grades 7 to 12. We look forward to attending the next event. What a great way to enhance our math experience!