Number, Number on the Wall

Here are six sites that provide hours of learning and entertainment in the world of numbers.

A Teen's Guide to Economics and Saving Money: Thanks to an alert teacher for this one. She has been using it successfully with her students and wanted to pass the information on. See it at money.

At Safe Haven: Preservation of Capital, Congressman Ron Paul talks us through "The Perils of Economic Ignorance", an article that should be digested at every congressional desk along with morning coffee. The author examines how Americans think they can make 2+2=5, the politics of wealth, and the myth of free lunches. You'll find it at

If ignorance of economics exists at the highest levels of government, perhaps one place to start educating ourselves is with our kids. The Federal Reserve Board (honestly: do you really know how it works?) is presenting a Federal Reserve Kids Page, complete with questions and answers and a quiz at the end. A final link will take you to Fed 101, a more in-depth discussion of how the Fed works and how it evolved.

In 1884, Edwin A. Abbott wrote an astonishing book called "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" while he was the head of a school for boys in London. The book examines the implications of a two-dimensional world and has had a major influence on mathematicians worldwide. It was followed by a lively sequel entitled "Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So", written by a mathematician named Ian Stewart. Now there is an animated film of the original book in production. You can see a quick-time trailer of the movie at

John Sims is both an artist and a mathematician who taught for years at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. His emphasis has been on the intersection of visual culture and numbers, particularly on the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter which we know as Pi. At last count, scientists had identified 1,241,100,000,000 decimal digits of Pi. Sims has produced a fascinating digital video on Pi which you can find at you're a really dedicated Pi fan, you can try the Pi Trivia quiz at And if you want to create your own art piece using Pi, you can do that here As the site tells us, "Despite calculating Pi to over 1 trillion digits, no pattern in the digits has been found."

No study of numbers would be complete without some mention of Arabic numerals and their influence on European counting systems. In fact Arabic numerals were invented by the Hindis, not the Arabs. You can learn more about the fascinating development of this numbering system by reading an article by Paul J. Gans of New York University You can also learn about the Codex Vigilanus from Spain in 976, the oldest dated manuscript in Europe using Arabic numbers.

Finally, on the subject of numbers, I leave you with these words of wisdom from Sir Isaac Newton, written after he had lost a lot of money in the South Sea Bubble: "I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men".

c.Corinne Whitaker 2006