The "In Search of Newton" activity is intended as a challenge puzzle for students who have completed geometry and a second year of algebra. Specifically, this activity attempts to provide some insight into the personalities and accomplishments of ten of the greatest mathematicians of all time. At the same time, it introduces some of the mathematics of these individuals that might intrigue students and encourage them to research some of these topics even further.
Use the two 8.5" x 11" colored masters to produce enough back-to-back copies so that each student has a copy. It is advisable to have the copies laminated for future use.
Make sure that the students who will be participating in this activity are aware of the time frame (usually as an extended assignment) that they have to complete this activity. Also ensure that the students understand the Background and Procedure listed below and on the poster. When completed, the student responses should be turned in to the instructor.
Background: Sir Isaac Newton is universally ranked as the greatest physicist of all time. His insight into physical problems and his ability to solve them has probably never been exceeded. In his own estimate of his work, Newton wrote: "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a little boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
So this journey begins with Newton and will end with him, but it is also about mathematicians who laid the foundations that contributed to Newton's discoveries, about contemporaries whose triumphs rivaled Newton's, and about mathematicians who followed in the footsteps of these mathematical giants.
Procedure: Short biographies of ten of these great mathematicians are provided in chronological order. For each corresponding challenge, record the correct letter that relates to the work of that mathematician. Then use these letters to fill in the missing letters in the coded ribbon. Finally, to find Newton, decode the message.