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Sanjoy Mahajan – Teaching Modes of Reasoning: Redesigning “The Art of Approximation in Science & Engineering” Course Around Transferable Ways of Thinking

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"How high can locusts jump?  How far can a bird migrate after a summer of eating?" For many years, at Cambridge and MIT, Prof. Mahajan taught the "Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering" (6.055J/2.038J). The topics were diverse, including flight, biophysics, fluids, waves, and material properties (thermal, mechanical, and quadratical). Unfortunately, a student may never use waves, fluids, or material properties again. But within each topic, the analyses used modes of reasoning such as divide and conquer, symmetry, and dimensional analysis. And every student would reuse the modes of reasoning. So Prof. Mahajan Fourier transformed the course, rotating it 90 degrees so that the modes of reasoning became the primary, transferable units, and the topics became their illustrations. During his seminar, he'll describe the course redesign and its rationale and together we'll also try physical demonstrations from the course that show how topics and modes of reasoning fit together. Sanjoy Mahajan is Visiting Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and Associate Professor of Applied Science and Engineering at Olin College of Engineering.

This session is co-hosted by the HHMI Education group. For more information please visit the education group's website.

Summary review of Mahajan's talk.