How To Begin The Second Year Of Implementing Eureka Math Six Degrees From Honest Abe

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Six Degrees From Honest Abe

The past is not as long ago as you think. That’s a subjective statement, I know, but I’m not talking about a first grader’s memory of last Christmas being perceptually related to an octogenarian’s memory of the Eisenhower years.

No, what I mean is this: if you measure the passage of time using human life as a tape measure, the current inhabitants of Earth are not. this away from George Washington, William Shakespeare, Pope Constantine or Jesus.

I developed this concept after playing Six Degrees of Separation with some friends one night. Six Degrees is a fun little social exercise based on the assumption that every person on the planet is connected to each other by no more than six people.

socially connected, meaning how you are connected to your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. This is you people to know, for better or for worse. So if your co-worker’s husband’s former college roommate is an assistant director on the set of The officeyou’re four degrees apart from Emmy-winning actor Steve Carell.

Pretty cool, huh? I started off with a bang that night, connecting two degrees with the Beatles. A friend’s father was a well-known promoter who had worked with everyone from Elvis to Bob Dylan to Bob Hope, but it was his association with the Beatles that really it impressed me Framed photos in his office showed Dad smiling proudly next to one or another major celebrity, like a fisherman posing with his latest catch.

So I met a guy who knew the Beatles and there are my two degrees, plain as pie.

But here in the great suburbs of the New York metropolitan area, it’s difficult no connect in two or three degrees with the famous, the famous or the influential. Actually, I’d say it doesn’t matter where reside in the United States, you’d have to live a pretty insular existence to not be at least connected to one known individual

Now, I know this premise of Six Degrees isn’t celebrity specific. It is supposed to apply to every person on the planet. But who cares about my connection to an Australian rancher or an Iraqi insurgent? What I want to know is how I am related to the people of influence; people who have left their mark on history.

And so my crowning achievement took shape that night in a flash of insight. I had just lit a Coors Light and was raising the can to my lips when I realized that our connections are not limited to the living. I followed this thread for about forty seconds until… Eureka!

I laughed out loud at the effortless connection I had just made with one of the most significant figures in American history: I am separated by six degrees and five forty-four years from our nation’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.

Hard to believe, but true as hell. There are only five humans between me and Honest Abe. All but one are no longer living, and Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president, is the fourth degree in this chain. Also, the key person in the equation was a member of the Kennedy administration, so only JFK is three degrees of distance

Teddy Roosevelt and JFK notwithstanding, I thought the Lincoln connection was by far the coolest, because how is it exactly possible to connect with a man who died in 1865?

Here’s how it works:

A friend of mine is the son of a prominent Washington lawyer. When he was young, my friend’s father knew a granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt very well. This granddaughter fondly remembered her grandfather Teddy, whose first Secretary of State was Mr. John Hay; the same John Hay who, as a much younger man, had served as Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary.

So I met my friend, my friend knew his father, his father knew TR’s granddaughter, the granddaughter knew TR, TR knew Hay, and Hay knew Lincoln.

Very strange, I thought, and my friends agreed.

On the way home that night, I started to wonder WHO share the planet who at certain moments in history. Did Leonardo da Vinci and Christopher Columbus live together? How about Mozart and George Washington? From this line of thinking came a “did you know?” game that my kids get a lot of use out of. The facts defy logic until you do the math, but once you do, the distant story seems a little less so.

My grandmother, for example, was born in 1912. Anyone forty-seven years of age or older that year had breathed the same air as the living Abraham Lincoln. And anyone over the age of eighty-six in 1912 had been born when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, our second i third presidents, still walked the earth. An old woman pampering my little grandmother might have been pampered as a child by a grown John Adams. So if pampering counted as a Six Degrees “connection” and my grandmother held on me when me it was a baby, then it might just be three degrees withdrawn from two signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Faced with this scenario, Lincoln looks positive recent. When I entered this life in 1961, there were still some people who had been born during Lincoln’s lifetime. In fact, the same last of those Lincoln-era humans didn’t pass from mortal existence until the mid-1970s, having spent their years in horse-drawn carriages on gas-lit cobblestones and radio disco of cars on the Los Angeles Freeway.

I bet Abe himself would agree, if he were with us today in two hundred years, that the past is indeed no as long as you think, it doesn’t matter how many years ago

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