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Nanyang University

Hhat is the Discovery Method?

Some

1) is good teaching?

Giving opportunity to the student to discover things

by himself.

Herbert Spencer

2) The ideas should be born in the student's mind anc the

t .each.er act only as

Socrates

3) Nothing is more important than to see the sources of

invention which are, in my opinion, more important

than the inventions themselves.

Leibniz

4) First guess, then prove -- that's the way to do it.

When introduced at the time or place, good logic

may r.o the worst enemy of good teaching. Beauty in

is seeing the truth without effort.

George Polya

. . ' .

5) To teach new concepts without motivation is to torture

ir:quisitive minds and to murder \vould be mathematicians

One of our colleagues

Teaching Group Theorv in School

Since 1950., there has been a world wide reform on mathe-

matical education. !!any nm; notions anct results of mathematics

are being promoted for inclusion in the school syllabuses. One

o them is the concept of a group.

The purpose of this article is to suggest one way of

teaching students about a certain class of groups (Euler groups)

by the Discovery Hethod. Euler groups are finite

commutative groups, whose motivation comes from the study of

natural ntunbers. The concept of an Euler group is logically

simple enough to be understood by thc .high school students,

and yet its structure is inter8sting enough to stimulate the

curiosity of the students.

( 6 )

,., h'

Euler Groups by D i scoverv rlethod

Teacher: Let us play a Number-Game: take ou

Student: Done.

t a piece ofpaper.

amvn a positive integer n gr eater than 1.

Student writes: 15

reacher: Hritc dovm the S3t of all positive

than n.

Student '!tlri tes

Teacher; Strike out thosa integers in your

common civisors vrith n, leaving on

which arc copricie to n.

Student

integers less

0

set have

ly those integers

Teacher: Construct a nct-7 multiplication tab

set of integers followin

le

,.,i th

your

g rule: For

each a, b we define

'

a * b = the remainder of (a

X

b)7 n

where, in your case, n = 15

Student \<lrites

* 1 2 4 7 a 11 13 1

t1

1 1 2 -1 7 8 11 13 1

(3

2 2

"'

lt1

1 7 11 l,:,. 3 1

4

tl 8

1 13 2 14 7 1 1

7 7 1:1 13 4' 11

")

1

.;:.. 8

8 8 1 2 11

4 13 l/1 7

11 11

7 2 13

1

g

-.

13

13 11 7 1 1:1 8

4 2

14

1"

. , .., '

11 8 7 4 2

""

.J.. _..,

1

(7)

11

I

II

IL

I

!

I

rl

I

I

I

i

'

'

I

1,

Teacher ; Observe carefully. Do you find any integer in

your table which is not in your sst?

Student: No. For each a, b in my set, a * b is again in

my set, I ao not need any integer to construct

my table.

'l'eacher In "''hen vlc come across a set having

an operation definea "\tlithin'' its elements?

the set is called a

8

closed" mathematical system.

Nm,r, let us try to st'.ldy the "mat:.tematical structnrQ ''

of your system. Observe your table carefully ancl

tell me any interesting properties you may find.

Student.;__ ThG table is diagonally syrrmetric, in the sense

that for each a, b in my set, a * h and :t: * a

.::tre equal.

Teacher: That is right. Ir.. mathematics 1-Je say the operation

iS "COITimUtatiVG''

1

i.e. for each a,b ($ (n) 1

I also notice that 1 has the property that for each

a in my set

1 * a = a.

That is right. In mathenatics we say that 1 acts

as the identity in tho system.

Student: I also notice that in every row the integers in my

set appear once ane only once. In particular, 1

appears . once and only once in c.very rO\".'. 'I'b.is

means that for integer a in set there

exists one and only one b in spt with a * b - 1 .

That is , right. In mathematics v!C say that every

el12ment ir. your system has an ninverse" and if

. . _, -1

a* b = 1 we denote b by or denote a by b

!

Student: nave I ;;1.i3covered all the nrcmertien vou \'rant me to?

.. ... ' ... . ...

Not yeti ':.' here . is ons more important property I

would ,like you 'co discover. Hmqever, this property

is inside the table, and not easily

perceived.

(8)

Student : May I make some guesses?

You may try.

Am I right to say that in my system I can do

in the sense that for each given a anc

b, I can always finc1 a unique element c such th2.t

a * c = b , '\lhi ch

means that b a = c ?

Teacher: The fact that the in your set appear

exactly once in every row does imply that you can

do '' divisionCl in yea r set system. thi s

is not the property I have in mind.

Student: Can you give me a hint?

Teacher: The property I want you to discover is similar to

a property "V7e often come across \..,.hen we add integers

or multiply integers. 'I.' l:is property fails \'lhen we

'l

_ .. J.Vl.Sl.On.

Is it the associativity of the operation * ? Am

I right to say that for each a, b, c in my set,

(a * b) * c = a * (b * c)?

YOl.! arc right. Can you this property in

your ta!::. le?

I can't, the table does not to have any

pattern or rule to suggest that the operation * is

associative.

In this case, what will you do to convince that the

is indeed associative?

'. . .

Student; 'l'he only method I can think of is by trial and error.

':'eacher 1\ ll right, go and try.

Student writes g

1. (2 * 1) * 7 11 '

llj

( 2 * -1) * 7= 2 * ( 1 * 7)

8 -!: 7

2 * ( 4 * 7) 2 *13

(9)

(.(: * 4) * 1 -'l

1 * 14

14 )

I

l rl j'

0

( 4 * 4 ) * 14 .

1

1 * ( -1. * 1 !l )

!3 * (11 * 14) 4 * ll

(11** 8) * 14 = 13 * 14 2)

...

11 * (8 * * 7 = 2J

< 11 * e > * 1 == 11 * < s * 1 1 l

Are you not>l convince6 that the operation * is

associative?

I am almost convinced, when I have more tine I

vlill try to convince r1yself, and to find a proof

of this property.

That is the right attitu.de in studying mathematics.

trial and error can strengthen your belief

in something

1

it ah-;ays leave room for doubt. Only

a good mathematical proof will once and for all put

you on a firm foundation for what you believe.

Let me sur:u.-nari:.:e . the proprties v1e have discovered;

1. For each a, E (n)

1

E I (n) 1

i.e. ;... i (n) , * > forms a closed system.

2. The operation * is commutative in ( cp (n), * >

3. The operation * is associative in < (n)

1

* >

1. The system < (n)

1

* > has an identity, namely 1.

5. Every eleccnt of (n) has a inverse.

Teacher ; In vle call such a syster.J a commutative

group. In this particular case, it is called an

::::uler grm.l::?r after the famous mathematician Leonard

Euler (1707 - 1783).

Student: Ai11 I right to say that for evrar:y crivcn. positive

integ>_! r n, ':JC can construct an Euler group

.c.t(n) , * >? lmd since there arc infinitely

many positive integersp there are infinitely many

Euler groups?

Teacher: You are right. All Euler groups have the five

properties you just snr:una.rized.

(10)

Do Euler groups differ from oti1er in c:.ny

Teaci:H:r Yes, they do. Dne tt;ay to compare their structurr3s

is to their structural graphs. Let me

illustrate the nethod on Euler group 15.

Step 1 l1r i te dmm the set

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

(15) = {1,2,4,7,8,11,13,11}

The first clement is 1.

Draw o. snall circle and put the identity 1 in it.

Then Delete 1 from the set {.X

1

2,

1

7, C, 11,13, 11.;}

Now, the first integer is 2.

products

He no\-: compute the

(2 * 2) * 2, ... ,

until sequence comes hack to 1:;

2, 2 * 2 = 4, 4 * 2 = a, a * 2 = 1.

t<Je then drm..r a circuit containing the integers

2,4,8,1.

! 4

Then delete 2,4,8, from the above sst

e.g.

Nm,r, the first integer is 7. next compute

the se0ucncc;

1, 7 * 2, (7 * 7) * 7, 1

until it comes back to l, getting

1r 7 * 7 = 1 * 7 = 13, 13 * 7 = 1.

v?e then cera"' a circuit containinc; these integers

7, 4, 13, l as follows:

(11)

Steo 5

1\.s before, ""e delete 7 and 13 from the above set,

giving

now consic

1

er the first integer in the new set,

Nhich is 11, and find the sequence

11, ll i< 11, (1:'.. * 11) * 11,

I

Final1yf we obtain the graph representin9

the structure of the l"'iuler group < if (15), * >

Student: Euler group has a structural graph.

Arc all structural graphs of Euler groups so

beautiful'?

Teacher: best vTay to get the ans1.\er is for to go

home and construct as nany structural graphs of

Euler groups as you can.

(12)

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