While most numbers lead anonymous lives away from the mathematical spotlight, e^{iπ } occupies hallowed ground. Douglas Hofstadter writes that when he first saw the statement e^{iπ} = −1, “. . . perhaps at age 12 or so, it seemed truly magical, almost other-worldly.”

In my previous post, I presented a non-algebraic approach to exploring the slope of the sine function. That method involved placing a secant line on the graph and then dragging the two points that defined the line as close together as possible to approximate the tangent line.

When I reached calculus in my senior year of high school, it was clear that it sat atop a mountain that I had been ascending ever since my Algebra 1 class. Without the tools and procedures I had amassed from algebra and precalculus, I could never have performed the symbolic manipulations necessary to … Continue Reading ››

The Web Sketchpad model below (and here) shows the function f(θ) = 1 – cos 2θ in both Cartesian and polar form. For each graph, the independent variable appears as a red bar that corresponds to a particular value of x (for Cartesian) or θ (for polar). The red bar has … Continue Reading ››

In a prior blog post, I presented an uncommon method for solving the well-known Burning Tent problem. My solution, modeled on the approach in the Connected Geometry curriculum, used a dynamic ellipse to pinpoint the optimal solution. Now, I'd like to offer a related problem from Connected Geometry where … 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 ››

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about the value that students derive from writing mathematics with Sketchpad. The post included an example of a simple Logo iteration, easily implemented in Sketchpad, that produces some very complex and interesting shapes depending on the values of several input parameters. In the … Continue Reading ››

Can mathematical curves be beautiful? Most certainly! Precalculus students glimpse the connection between mathematics and art when they graph roses, cardioids, limaçons, and lemniscates. But these curves give just a taste of the beauty that can be achieved when graphing equations.

Several weeks ago, my friend Martin shared the following probability puzzle with me: Two points are chosen independently and at a random on a stick. The stick is broken at those points to form three smaller sticks. What is the probability these three sticks can form a triangle?