Resolving Contradictions with Brent Farrand (015)

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This episode probes the value of mathematics and debate for students—and everyone else. Brent Farrand is an award-winning math teacher and kingmaker debate coach who established the debate team at Science High in Newark, NJ in 1979. On a mid-July weekend in 2018, Brent welcomed me and a few bandmates into his Liberty, NY home for music and conversation. Thanks to Jason Grant and Duane Harper Grant for playing guitar on the soundtrack.

Detail from Brent’s painting of a Koch snowflake, one of the first fractal curves to be described. The Koch curve first appeared in a 1904 paper called “On a continuous curve without tangents, constructible from elementary geometry” (Original French title:  Sur une courbe continue sans tangente, obtenue par une construction géométrique élémentaire)  by the Swedish mathematician Helge von Koch. Brent also painted the picture of infinity used as this episode’s thumbnail.

Detail from Brent’s painting of a Koch snowflake, one of the first fractal curves to be described. The Koch curve first appeared in a 1904 paper called “On a continuous curve without tangents, constructible from elementary geometry” (Original French title: Sur une courbe continue sans tangente, obtenue par une construction géométrique élémentaire) by the Swedish mathematician Helge von Koch. Brent also painted the picture of infinity used as this episode’s thumbnail.

Featured Musicians

Jason Grant

Jason Grant

Duane Harper Grant

Duane Harper Grant

Related Reading

A 1994 New York Times article from 1994 reporting the last 12 years as those in which Brent’s debate team at Science High in Newark won 12 varsity state championships.

A 2010 NJ.com article on Shagun Kukreja, the 17-year-old debater from the Jersey Urban Debate League (led at that point by Brent Farrand), who was invited to the Obama White House as one of the winners of the Urban Debate National Championships. 

Several times during our conversation, Brent references the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues … 

Peter Horn