My Favorite One-Liners: Part 20

In this series, I’m compiling some of the quips and one-liners that I’ll use with my students to hopefully make my lessons more memorable for them.

Perhaps the world’s most famous infinite series is

S = \displaystyle \frac{1}{2} + \frac{1}{4} + \frac{1}{8} + \dots

as this is the subject of Zeno’s paradox. When I teach infinite series in class, I often engage the students by reminding students about Zeno’s paradox and then show them this clip from the 1994 movie I.Q.

This clip is almost always a big hit with my students. After showing this clip, I’ll conclude, “When I was single, this was part of my repertoire of pick-up lines… but it never worked.”

Even after showing this clip, some students resist the idea that an infinite series can have a finite answer. For such students, I use a physical demonstration: I walk half-way across the classroom, then a quarter, and so on… until I walk head-first into a walk at full walking speed. The resulting loud thud usually confirms for students that an infinite sum can indeed have a finite answer.

For further reading, see my series on arithmetic and geometric series.



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