Mathalicious: Family Tree

How many ancestors do you have as you go back in time?

You’ve got two parents. They each had two parents: your four grandparents. Each of them had two parents: your great-grandparents. So as you go back in time, how many direct ancestors do you have?

In this lesson, students are introduced to the principle of exponential growth, and use it model the mathematics of ancestry. By doubling the number of direct ancestors with each generation, they’ll find that eventually the number of direct ancestors would’ve equaled the human population. They’ll then discuss the implications: does this mean everyone is related? Or is there something wrong with the model?


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