Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? - Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange most recent 30 from matheducators.stackexchange.com 2022-01-23T00:10:23Z https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/feeds/question/444 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/rdf https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/444 20 Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? Markus Klein https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/114 2014-03-18T13:34:26Z 2015-05-31T22:53:53Z <p>Most mathematicians would agree that $$e^{i\pi}+1=0$$ is one of the most impressive <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler%27s_formula">formulas</a>. </p> <p>Imagine your students have just learned about the definition of $e$ or $i$ (just assume it's $e$, normally $i$ comes later in curricula); $\pi$ should be known for sure at that point. </p> <p>Is it a good motivation for the new quantity (here $e$ or $i$) for the students if you tell them about the formula above (and maybe short explaining the unknown quantity) to emphasize the importance of the new variable ($e$ or $i$)? Or is such a thing distracting or even unhelpful since you overload the students with stuff they don't know at that point (and maybe don't care)? </p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/447#447 4 Answer by user173 for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? user173 https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/0 2014-03-18T14:04:28Z 2014-03-18T14:36:48Z <p>Usually not. The constants $e$ and $\pi$ have great applications, which should be their motivation.</p> <p>Maybe in an algebra class that introduces $i$, if you're discussing the geometry of the complex plane, then Euler's formula could be relevant.</p> <p>Definitely in a differential equations class, where solutions often involve exponentiating complex numbers, Euler's formula is important.</p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/448#448 28 Answer by user1729 for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? user1729 https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/169 2014-03-18T14:05:49Z 2014-04-28T11:32:35Z <p>I have never quite understood why it was impressive and/or beautiful, and it always frustrates me when people claim that it is. Therefore, I would say "no, it is not good motivation", because beauty is subjective.</p> <p>On the other hand, if you explain to students that the formula is based on $e^{i\theta}=\cos\theta+i\sin\theta$ and this essentially allows you to combine circles with complex numbers and hence prove many wonderful things (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residue_theory">e.g.</a>), then I agree that this is good motivation.</p> <p>My point is, introducing the formula on its own is pointless. Rather, it is what the formula tells you, and the subsequent applications, which are important and, perhaps, motivate the study of $e$ and $i$. I mention this point because it is often omitted when people mention the formula: they simply claim that it is beautiful "because it contains $e$, $\pi$ and $i$". However, (I believe that) the beauty lies in the application...</p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/459#459 8 Answer by Confutus for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? Confutus https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/40 2014-03-18T16:05:03Z 2014-03-18T16:05:03Z <p>Unless you have introduced or are about to introduce exponentiation of complex numbers, this is no more than interesting trivia. It doesn't mean anything and doesn't help them do anything. </p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/1576#1576 5 Answer by David Ebert for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? David Ebert https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/867 2014-04-12T18:04:26Z 2015-05-31T22:53:53Z <p>Let me take on a different meaning of "introducing" and argue why I think Euler's identity is a <em>great</em> way to introduce the concept:</p> <p>I teach primarily remedial students in grade 8, 9, and 10, and I put the following classroom poster:</p> <p>$\sqrt-1 \space 2^3 \space \sum \pi...$ and it was delicious!</p> <p><a href="http://www.spreadshirt.com/1-2-i-8-sum-pi-i-ate-some-pie-shirt-C3376A10250297" rel="nofollow">http://www.spreadshirt.com/1-2-i-8-sum-pi-i-ate-some-pie-shirt-C3376A10250297</a></p> <p>None of my students need to know about $i$ or $\Sigma$ (yet) -- and a few of them are disappointingly clueless about $2^3$ and $\pi$ -- but nearly <em>all</em> of them were interested in the poster and wanted to know what it meant, and some students even did a bit of research outside of class.</p> <p>Now, I have not <em>introduced</em> these concepts in a mathematically meaningful way. My students don't know what half of the symbols mean. But by casually mentioning to them that $i$ is not on but <em>above</em> the number line and $\Sigma$ is like + but not really, I hope I can pique their curiosity.</p> <p>In the same way, I think that using Euler's identity to dive into a long lecture might undermine students' enjoyment, but perhaps leaving the identity for students to think about as they progress through learning about $e$, $\pi$, and $i$ <em>would</em> be motivating or at least interesting. </p> <p>Finally, it must be noted that Euler's identity really is much better than the lame math pun I put up in my classroom because it's true! That fact might be lost on students, but it shouldn't!</p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/1582#1582 6 Answer by Ittay Weiss for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? Ittay Weiss https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/59 2014-04-12T20:38:53Z 2014-04-12T20:38:53Z <p>I don't think the equation itself is a good motivation. To be seen as beautiful the students first need to have an understanding of $e$ and an understanding and its Taylor series (which is motivated by lots of applications). Then they need some appreciation of the algebra of the complex numbers (which again can be motivated in many ways). Then, once they know what $i$ and $e$ are, and they would generally agree the two constants are unrelated, you can do the magic of plugging in a complex number into the Taylor series for $e^x$ and get the lovely formula. Plug in $i$ and you get the (now beautiful) equation. If you just drop the equation on them, then they will see no beauty in it. It's beauty lies in the relationship it makes between two seemingly unrelated constants. The students need to first think the constants are unrelated. </p> <p>An analogy would be: is it a good idea to present a Weierstrass nowhere differentiable continuous functions as motivations for differential calculus. Well, if the students don't know anything about continuity of differentiability, then they won't find it surprising that Weierstrass functions exist. To be surprised by their existence the students need to first develop the wrong feeling for these concepts, only so that their understanding can be honed by the surprises. </p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/1595#1595 5 Answer by Michael Kay for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? Michael Kay https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/877 2014-04-13T08:47:41Z 2014-04-13T08:47:41Z <p>I find it brilliant, wonderful, beautiful, but I should think it's a big turn-off for most students because it's so abstract; it's impossible to explain what it actually means.</p> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/444/is-ei-pi1-0-a-good-motivation-for-introducing-e-or-i-why-not/2047#2047 2 Answer by atmelino for Is $e^{i\pi}+1=0$ a good motivation for introducing $e$ or $i$? Why (not)? atmelino https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/1150 2014-04-28T22:22:20Z 2014-04-28T22:22:20Z <p>the key is "..have just learned about the definition of e or i". I think it would be total overload to introduce this equation at this point. I would save it for the end of the school year, making clear that this is not going to be on an exam. I like user1729's point about the trigonometric identity, especially when there is a path parameter like t and you can make things go around in a circle.. Also, I think it is important to talk about the power series expansion in this context. I find that part most beautiful-seeing the connection between the e-function and sine and cosine, seeing how two infinite series are combined into one.</p>