Splash! Chicago

Splash Biography

DANIEL ZAHAROPOL, Founder and CEO, Learning Unlimited

Major: Education Entrepreneurship

College/Employer: Learning Unlimited

Year of Graduation: 2004

Picture of Daniel Zaharopol

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Dan is the Founder and CEO of Learning Unlimited (LU), an organization that is leading a movement of college students teaching everything and anything --- just like Splash! Chicago. LU brings to these groups the support they need to put on outstanding programs like this one, and it works to spread Splash and other similar projects to college campuses around the country.

In addition to his work with Learning Unlimited, Dan is also leading a project of the Art of Problem Solving Foundation to launch a summer program for underserved New York City middle school students with talent in mathematics. Designed to give them access to world-class instructors and a community of peers learning math together, this program seeks to find new ways to engage students with math.

Dan graduated from MIT in 2004 and pursued graduate work at the University of Illinois in mathematics. He additionally teaches online for the Art of Problem Solving.

Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

T529: Story and Dialogue in Teaching Mathematics in Ripple Spring 2010 (Apr. 24, 2010)
Most students come out of school without an appreciation for real mathematics. They have never paused to think about the subject carefully; they see it as pushing symbols, finding key words, and doing a procedure until an answer is found. They never consider fundamental questions about where math comes from, nor do they see the wholeness of mathematical thought. We're going to consider a range of stories or dialogues (scripted discussions between two characters) that can spur students to pause and consider the mathematics they are studying. Whereas typically, the only stories that make it into a math class are word problems — usually not very good stories nor very deep mathematics — our texts will be much more provocative for anyone, covering everything from elementary school math to advanced considerations of infinity or fundamental logic. Drawing from Plato, classical mathematical stories such as "Hilbert's Hotel," the dialogues in "Godel, Escher, Bach" and the old TV series Square One from the Childrens' Television Workshop, we'll look at a full range of ways to stimulate students' thought. With time, we will construct our own dialogues for mathematical topics that interest us.

H534: Starting a Splash in Ripple Spring 2010 (Apr. 24, 2010)
The organization running this conference, Splash! Chicago, is one of several similar organizations around the country running programs based on common ideas. All the local organizations have built their programs from the ground up and make all their own decisions, so the various Splash programs all have a different flavor, but the idea still binds them together. Leaders of several Splash programs have recently come together to start a national non-profit called Learning Unlimited, devoted to helping these programs start around the country, and supporting them once they do. The goal is not to create programs for a place, but to find people in that place who want to create programs, and help these people do so. Dan Zaharopol, CEO of Learning Unlimited, will talk in this workshop about the process of supporting local education programs, and about the process of starting an education non profit. More details about this workshop will be available soon.

C696: How Your Brain Lies To You in Splash! Fall 2010 (Oct. 02, 2010)
Think you're perfectly logical? Think that you see everything around you? That you remember things just how they happened? Turns out, you don't. We'll see just how your brain doesn't work the way you think it does. It misleads you. It takes shortcuts, and tells you things that aren't true. Be aware of where your brain goes wrong, and you'll be smarter, better able to avoid being misled, and more aware of what's around you.

M697: Math Problem-Solving Session in Splash! Fall 2010 (Oct. 02, 2010)
In school, how often do you get to solve deep math problems? Problems that require thinking, not just doing the same thing over and over again? They're a lot more interesting, and a lot more fun. This is your chance to play around with problems that will actually make you think. You'll get a chance to work individually and stretch your mind in new ways.

M468: Number Tricks in Splash! Fall 2009 (Oct. 03, 2009)
Want to be able to tell in your head if 48302853453 is divisible by 9? What about 3? What about 11? We’ll learn some tricks to tell quickly which numbers are divisible by 2, 3, 5, 9, and 11. But I’m not just going to tell you a rule: I’ll also show you *why* that rule is true. We’ll learn a little bit of modular arithmetic and understand something really interesting about numbers – all while you learn some quick tricks in math.

M469: Winning at Combinatorial Games in Splash! Fall 2009 (Oct. 03, 2009)
Here's a game. We have two piles of pennies. Two of us alternate turns. On our turn, we can remove as many pennies as we want but from one pile only. The last person who can remove pennies wins. It's a simple game, but the strategy is not so easy to come up with. (Can you?) We'll play some games like this one and understand how to always win them. Not just will you be able to beat your friends, but you'll also see some really beautiful patterns.

M470: Constructing Numbers in Splash! Fall 2009 (Oct. 03, 2009)
What are numbers, really? I mean, what *are* they? As children, we were taught how to count, as if numbers had always been there and were obvious. When you got to fractions, well, those were supposed to be clear too. And then real numbers? $$\pi$$? It was always brushed under the rug... it’s just some weird decimal that goes on forever, right? Well, you can’t prove anything about numbers if you don’t know what they really are. How do we know that mathematical constructions actually work? What basis tells us that even something as simple as addition makes sense – how do you even define it? What could it possibly mean to take something like $$\pi^{\sqrt{2}}$$? Well, the numbers can be built out of something much, much simpler. You can work your way right up from almost nothing to the full complexity of the real numbers. Come and find out how a mathematician thinks about a concept you might have thought was simple. This will be a very challenging course, but not like the mathematics you see in school: it won’t be about memorizing formulas or lots of calculations. This class is for people who like and are good at dealing with abstract concepts and logical deduction.

M292: How to Model Computation: Finite Automata in Splash! 2008 (Oct. 04, 2008)
How do computers "think?" If you ever want to understand that, you need to come up with a good way to model them: to say exactly what they can do, and how. In this class, you'll get to work with a model of computers called "finite automata." You'll design some of them yourself and test out what they can do; then you'll get a chance to prove results about the limits of their abilities. This functions as a first introduction to a field called "theoretical computer science," and I'll talk a little bit at the end of the class about a model of computation called a Turing machine, which is just as powerful as any computer you might use --- then I'll mention some problems that Turing machines, and your own computer, can't solve at all.