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How folding paper can get you to the moon - Adrian Paenza

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TEDEd Animation

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Can folding a piece of paper 45 times get you to the moon? By seeing what happens when folding just one piece of paper, we see the unbelievable potential of exponential growth. This lesson will leave you wanting to grab a piece of paper to see how many times you can fold it! Lesson by Adrian Paenza, animation by TED-Ed.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

The exponential growth that Paenza plays with is hypothetical, but real-world exponential growth patterns exist all around us—in microbiology, economics, public health, and technology, to name just a few. Identify some instances of exponential growth in one or more of these domains. Working with classmates, create an exhibit for younger students that defines exponential growth, shares real-world examples, and suggests simple experiments that they can do in order to see exponential growth in action.

Assume that you’re working with a piece of paper that’s 0.001 cm thick, as Paenza proposes, and one meter on each side. At what point will you be unable to fold the paper anymore because its thickness has exceeded the area available for folding?

For more about exponential growth, watch this video on the "Legend of the Chessboard."

Click here to see the collection of books on mathematics written by Adrian Paenza.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Adrian Paenza
  • Director Biljana Labović
  • Artist Celeste Lai
  • Animator Franz Palomares
  • Narrator Adrian Paenza

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