Exploration, innovation, proof: For students, teachers, and others who are curious, keeping your mind open and ready to investigate unusual or unexpected properties will always lead to learning something new. Technology can further this process, allowing various behaviors to be analyzed that were previously memorized or poorly understood. This article shares the adventure of one such discovery of exploration, innovation, and proof that was uncovered when a teacher tried to find a smoother way to model conic sections using dynamic technology. When an unexpected pattern regarding the locus of an ellipse's or hyperbola's foci emerged, he pitched the problem to a ninth grader as a challenge, resulting in a marvelous adventure for both teacher and student. Beginning with the evolution of the ideas that led to the discovery of the focal locus and ending with the significant student-written proof and conclusion, we hope to inspire further classroom use of technology to enhance student learning and discovery.
Chris Harrow and Lillian Chin
I always seek activities that might stretch my students yet would be accessible to them; that might require logical thought yet would contain counterintuitive elements; that might provide the opportunity to venture into new mathematical realms yet would have a simple starting point. This article and the activity that inspired it did indeed arise by way of a relatively straightforward problem that I proposed to one of my classes.
Readers comment on published articles or offer their own ideas.
Craig J. Cullen, Joshua T. Hertel, and Sheryl John
Technology can be used to manipulate mathematical objects dynamically while also facilitating and testing mathematical conjectures. We view these types of authentic mathematical explorations as closely aligned to the work of mathematicians and a valuable component of our students' educational experience. This viewpoint is supported by NCTM and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM).
Processes using linear measurement can be adapted to teach complex topics such as polynomial multiplication, rational exponents, and logarithms.
Maria L. Hernandez and Nils Ahbel
luidMath™ (www.fluiditysoftware.com), a new mathematics software tool for Tablet devices, computers, and interactive whiteboards, can create a dynamic graph or table with a simple gesture and recognize written expressions as the mathematical relationship they intend. The software uses a stylus as its input device. By changing constant values in an equation to parameters, the user can create sliders instantly and see graphs and tables change dynamically. The CAS (Computer Algebra System) functionality allows simplification of algebraic expressions and solution of equations and can perform all the calculations from algebra through calculus. FluidMath uses standard mathematical notation to explore explicitly and implicitly defined functions, parametric functions, polar functions, and recursively defined functions.
Maurice J. Burke
A tool that combines the power of computer algebra and traditional spreadsheets can greatly enhance the study of recursive processes.
Walter J. Whiteley and Ami Mamolo
Investigating rates of change in volume without calculation leads to an enriched sense of the optimization process and encourages reflection and connection among different approaches.
Gregory D. Foley
Ellipses vary in shape from circular to nearly parabolic. An ellipse's eccentricity indicates the location of its foci, but its aspect ratio is a direct measure of its shape.
John F. Mahoney
The author presents an activity in which the lines in students' hands are analyzed, with curves and lines fit to each one.