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• #### Index 441-454

problem becomes how to count the number of ways to choose two items (people shaking hands) from a collection of eight elements. For example, in how many ways can a committee of two be chosen from a group of eight people? This is the same as the handshake problem because each committee of two corresponds to a handshake. It is also the same as the octagon problem because each committee corresponds to a segment (which is identified by its two endpoints).

A critically important mathematical idea in the above discussion lies in noticing that these are all the same problem in different clothing. It also involves solving the problem and finding a representation that captures its key features. For students to develop the mathematical skill and ability they need to understand that seemingly different problems are just variations on the same theme, to solve the problem once and for all, and to develop and use representations that will allow them to move easily from one variation to another, the study of number provides an indispensable launching pad.