What are algorithms and how do they drive our culture? We’ll examine the Google page-rank algorithm, Cathy O’Neill’s National-Book-Award-nominated Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, whether random number generators are really random, the mathematics behind “fake news,” the Euclidian algorithm, and much more. These topics will provide context for a study of the algebra behind algorithms: sequences of instructions that usually involve variables and (algebraic) expressions. These expressions can be organized logically into matrices, programs, flowcharts, etc., to produce solutions to well-defined problems. Then, of course, we will debate the appropriateness of labeling problems “well-defined.” While we’re at it, we’ll delve into some statistics and number theory and then compose some algorithms of our own. Students should be familiar and comfortable with variables, although the ability to manipulate them is not a prerequisite. While this is a students-only course, interested parents and guardians are invited to participate during the final session.
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