Extreme Math: Real Math, Real People, Real Sports (Grades 5-10)
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On the surface, it seems easy. Can you think of the integers for x, y, and z so that x³+y³+z³=8? Sure. One answer is x = 1, y = -1, and z = 2. But what about the integers for x, y, and z so that x³+y³+z³=42?
That’s the beauty of math: There’s always an answer for everything, even if takes years, decades, or even centuries to find it. So here are nine more brutally difficult math problems that once seemed impossible, until mathematicians found a breakthrough. This Inmate Used Solitary Confinement to Learn Math. Now He’s Solving the World’s Hardest Equations. Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician who, around the turn of the 20th century, did foundational work in what we now call topology. Here’s the idea: Topologists want mathematical tools for distinguishing abstract shapes. For shapes in 3D space, like a ball or a donut, it wasn’t very hard to classify them all. In some significant sense, a ball is the simplest of these shapes.That turned out to be much harder—as in, no one was able to solve for those integers for 65 years until a supercomputer finally came up with the solution to 42. (For the record: x = -80538738812075974, y = 80435758145817515, and z = 12602123297335631. Obviously.) In 2019, mathematicians finally solved a hard math puzzle that had stumped them for decades. It’s called a Diophantine Equation, and it’s sometimes known as the “summing of three cubes”: Find x, y, and z such that x³+y³+z³=k, for each k from one to 100. Poincaré then went up to 4-dimensional stuff, and asked an equivalent question. After some revisions and developments, the conjecture took the form of “Every simply-connected, closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to S