As a high school teacher, a giant hurdle I encountered was addressing the idea of mathematics as a dynamic, beautiful field of research. Even with discourse, invention, and activities flooding our room, my students saw mathematics as static objects discovered by mathematicians centuries ago. In my classroom, I found discussions about the infinite number of primes and the infinite number of digits of pi to be great places to engage in discussions about mathematics as a research field. Something about the infinite was incredibly exciting, fun, and even controversial for my students. With announcement of the discovery of the greatest prime number (a mere 17M digits long) yesterday, which also happens to be a rare Mersenne prime, I couldn’t help but feel energized for the great discussions we can bring to our classrooms. I love that this is a beautiful and accessible topic to students and the public. I love the thrill of a new mathematical discovery. And, of course, I love prime numbers.
So, here's to celebrating our new largest prime:
2^57,885,161 - 1
This is the largest prime since 2008 and the 48th Mersenne prime!
For more about the story, see www.livescience.com.
All of this talk about primes reminds me of one of my favorite songs about the Twin Prime Conjecture. (Enjoy!)^13