It is fun to identify and spotlight teachers; every now and again, we will do the same for students. This month, we are appreciating Tamar Barabi who, at 16 years of age, did her math homework using a proof that hadn’t yet been invented. This is her geometry proof: Three Radii Theorem, or Tamar’s Theory – If three or more equal lines leave a single point and reach the boundary of a circle, the point is the center of the circle and the lines are its radii. 

There are a variety of discussions across the web arguing about whether this is a new theorem or not. Professor Ron Livne from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Ofer Grossman from Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem to think that it is. Grossman even says: “It’s cool to see how Tamar’s theorem can give elegant proofs for other important theorems.” She seems to take it all in stride. After all, she doesn’t want to be a mathematician but a dancer and actor! Anyone can do what she did, she writes. Just follow this advice: “Do your homework, incorrectly! Prove it! Name it! It’ll become your theorem!”

What kind of classroom supports and brings forth this kind of creativity and critical thinking? Most classroom say they do but their practice clearly indicates that the disruption caused means that creativity and critical thinking are given short shrift. It is far more important to cover curriculum, move through the lesson plan, and meet the quarter report card deadline than to spend time investigating and pursuing and intuiting.

But Tamar did. Of course, she was in a democratic school without grades where her teacher told her to “prove it” and it would be her theory! The Institute for Democratic Education in Israel says that it “encourages optimism, critical thinking and activism on the part of the individual and the community, and sees education and social processes as a main tool for promoting this culture.” May Tamar and the Institute be an inspiration to all teachers, all classrooms, and all students!