Intro to Estimation Skills: Fermi Problems, and more...
A practical introduction to "estimating" anything in our universe! An essential skill (more so in the 21st century, where google can tell us everything - thereby losing opportunities to think in a modular fashion), it's no surprise that this is a standard interview feature for tech/ consulting firms
Estimation has always been a core skill, and has become even more so in the 21st century where Google can provide answers at the click of a button. Facts or ideas children learn are often disparate and unconnected. To create meaning and have long-lasting learning, the pieces of knowledge should support each other through their connections. A habit like estimation, exercised regularly, activates the connections between facts and ideas and solidifies them in the learner’s mind. You can read more about this at our blog post here.
On this course, students will learn how to make 'intelligent' approximations, through ‘order of magnitude’ estimates.
They will be led to attempt an assortment of estimation tasks - e.g. # of leaves on a tree, amount of oxygen a mountaineer might need to carry, risks of flying versus road transport, # of endangered animals in a forest reserve, etc. After attempting these tasks, they will discuss what assumptions were made, and how underestimates and overestimates can be corrected.
There will also be discussions on important scientific discoveries involving estimation e.g. How do scientists confidently declare that a galaxy contains 100 billion stars, say?
As an optional project after the end of the course, students can interact with the instructor to study the reasonableness of the Drake equation, which attempts to estimate the number of active, communicative, extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.
Sukanya sees the world as an endless wonder, a world where children are excited and curious about learning science. She was the founder director of Curiouscity Science Education with the mission to enable children to look at science as a special way of viewing the world. Since 2004, she has been a visiting scientist at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore.
Sukanya also writes (in English and Bengali) to share her passion for science with her readers. She was awarded the prestigious Rabindra Smriti Puraskar in 2010 for science writing in Bengali.
She has M.Sc., M.Phil. degrees from the University of Delhi and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland College Park.