In last month's blog post, I described a parabola construction technique dating back to the work of Persian polymath Ibn Sina (c. 970 – 1037). After I published the post, my colleague Scott noted that my construction could be more robust to allow for parabolas that are downward facing as well as upward facing. … Continue Reading ››

There can never be enough conic-section construction techniques—at least that's my philosophy, having grown up to think that conics existed purely in the realm of algebraic equations. So to continue my conic section construction series on Sine of the Times, I'll present a parabola construction attributed to Ibn Sina (Avicenna), a Persian polymath (c. 970 – … Continue Reading ››

In how many different ways can you build a rhombus that stays a rhombus when its vertices are dragged? This assignment, a mainstay of Sketchpad workshops, invariably leads to great discussions because there are a multitude of ways to construct a rhombus, with each method highlighting different mathematical properties of the quadrilateral.
While the rhombus task works … Continue Reading ››

In my prior blog posts, I've presented methods for constructing ellipses using Web Sketchpad and paper folding. The other conic sections are feeling a bit left out, so let's explore some techniques for constructing parabolas.
All three Web Sketchpad models below (and here) are based on the distance definition of a parabola: The set … Continue Reading ››

Attention Sketchpad fans: If you're a Mac user and would like to give the new Mac Sketchpad a spin, go ahead and contact me so that we can add you to our beta test.
Several weeks ago, Apple released MacOS Catalina and brought an end to all 32-bit apps, including Sketchpad 5.06. Luckily, Nick … Continue Reading ››

When students find the nth roots of a complex number, they use de Moivre's Theorem and a fair bit of calculation and trigonometry. In this blog post, I'm going to approach the topic from a more visual perspective and make use of the following geometric way to think about complex number multiplication: To multiply two complex … Continue Reading ››

This past January, we introduced the Web Sketchpad Tool Library and Viewer. The Tool Library is a collection of over 60 mathematical tools for customizing a Web Sketchpad model, making it possible for teachers to decide which tools students have available to them on an activity-by-activity basis. The Viewer is a site … Continue Reading ››

Of all the conic section construction techniques, my favorite is undoubtedly the approach that requires nothing more than a paper circle.
Here's what to do: Draw or print a circle and its center, point A, on a sheet of paper. Cut out the circle. Mark a random point B anywhere on the circle. Then, fold … Continue Reading ››

Given a strip of paper, how might you divide it into fourths without using a ruler? Undoubtedly, you'd fold the strip in half and then in half again to locate the quarter marks. Now suppose that your goal is to divide a strip into sixths. You might start by folding the strip into thirds and … Continue Reading ››