# Mathematician of the Month – Pascal

Blaise Pascal was an extremely gifted Frenchman who spent a majority of his life devoted to God and the Christian faith. However, he was a genius mathematician who as a young boy and was saved from becoming just another obscure mathematician due to his remarkable contributions and discoveries.

When he was a kid, he was amazing at geometry and not having known about some mathematical discoveries, he rediscovered many of Euclid’s findings. At the age of 18, he invented an adding machine that seemed way ahead of its time. His invention was so well received that there is a computer language that is named after him.

Pascal and another top mathematician called Fermat invented probability in a bid to help a friend who had a gambling problem and was losing a lot of money. It turned out to be one of the most widely used branches of mathematics and perhaps the most important.

While working on the theory of probability, he did what he was slowly starting to get recognized for = rediscovering. He rediscovered an ancient Chinese triangle that is now popularly known as Pascal’s Triangle. I could go on about this triangle but it would give me you a headache so I won’t go there.

At 23, Pascal unfortunately developed a condition called dyspepsia which along with his insomnia made his life extremely difficult. Descartes suggested he should stay in bed and live on a diet of beef tea. This didn’t help him. Shortly after, he had a freak accident where he dangled from a bridge and his horses drowned. He convinced himself that it was a sign from God, telling him to give up Math. Vowing to live a more spiritually oriented life, he lived with Math. 16 years later, he died from stomach cancer.

Apart from his mathematical contributions, he is known as the inventor of the one-wheel wheelbarrow, of hydraulics and of public transport. It is safe to say he lived a very full life – the effects of his great work are felt even to this day.

# How to Teach Children to be Pragmatic

It’s very important for kids to learn the language of pragmatism from an early age. The pragmatic language involves specific ways of communication, sometimes also known as ‘social skills’. Kids must learn the use of language for different reasons such as greetings, farewells, asking questions, narrating anecdotes, etc. It’s important to change the language based on each type of communication, for example that with a teacher, a peer, a parent, et al. Pragmatic skills also involve turn-taking while talking and not interrupting, introducing new topics, correcting errors or altering something in a different way when a message is not understood the first time, maintaining eye contact and correct body distance while talking, and knowing how to talk to different groups of people (peers versus adults). So what’s the best way to introduce kids to the pragmatic language and help them master it? Check out the following.

Image Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/knittymarie/4802941163

Day-to-day happenings at home contribute significantly in developing a child’s pragmatic language skills. Encourage your child to greet parents and siblings at the breakfast table, say goodbye to whoever is at home while leaving for school, and wish a ‘good night’ before retiring to bed every night. Praise your child if she exhibits good communication skills.

Have you ever thought that the scientific method may be useful in contributing significantly to a child’s pragmatic skills? The scientific method is more than just a way of approaching sciences; it’s a way we live. The scientific method of studying has been developed taking into account our day-to-day lives and therefore devising the best possible way to approach a solution. The approach of the scientific method includes five very pragmatic steps – hypothesis, formulation, experiment, and conclusion. The four steps will help any child even beyond her science lessons – to understand life with a pragmatic approach. So have your child solve such scientific method worksheets which explain each step in detail and inspire her to adopt the approach in her day-to-day life.

Role-playing with children is another great way to help them becomes pragmatic in their approach. Pretend to be a teacher, a peer, a parent, or a stranger and converse with your child. Talk about various problems that are specific to each role and try to elicit a reaction from the child. Here are a few questions for two of the roles mentioned on which you can base the role-play.

Teacher

• How long does it take you to reach school? Is there a better way to commute?
• If you forgot to get your stationery on a math project day, what would you do?
• If there’s just one chalk in the classroom and your friend is using it to demonstrate a problem on the board but you need it urgently for a project that the teacher has assigned to you. How would you approach your friend or tackle the situation?

Peer

• Your best friend is going for a movie with her neighbor-friends. She insists you accompany her even though you not comfortable with them. How would you react/what would you do?
• You are appearing for an exam and you notice your neighbor has not got a single pen/pencil with her. You haven’t got any spare stationery either. What would you do?

Practice story telling with the kids. Provide kids with connecting clues and sequences and help them string them together to form a story. For example, to weave a story on a day out to an aquarium with family, supply her with clues such as ‘when did you wake up’, ‘how did you go’, ‘who went with you’, ‘where did you go’, how were the animals at the aquarium’, ‘have you bought any souvenir from there’, ‘would you like to go back to the aquarium on another day’. Give her the freedom to use her imagination to tell the story, so don’t interrupt her if she sneaks in unreal events!

It’s important to be pragmatic and give your child the opportunity to develop her pragmatic side of personality with these tips.