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 ››

David Henderson, the author of Experiencing Geometry, died this past December. I wrote about David in a prior post, and in particular, his approach of asking us to grapple with a small number of rich problems, allowing us to find our own, often non-traditional, ways of … Continue Reading ››

For the past five years, Scott and I have featured interactive Web Sketchpad models in nearly all our Sine of the Times blog posts. As much fun as it's been to build "websketches" to share with you, we've really wanted to put the creative power of Web Sketchpad into your hands. And now, finally, that's … Continue Reading ››

On the NCTM discussion site myNCTM, there's currently an extended discussion about "Division and multiplication of fractions." As the discussion has continued, I've grown concerned with what I see as a fundamental problem with the way we often introduce multiplication as repeated addition: "Multiplying 4 by 5 means we're combining five groups of four items. … Continue Reading ››

In his 1947 book, One, Two, Three...Infinity, physicist George Gamow poses a pirate treasure problem that has since become a classic. Below is my reworded statement of the puzzle.

Among a pirate's belongings you find the following note: The island where I buried my treasure contains a single palm tree. Find the tree. From the palm tree, … Continue Reading ››

Below are two maps of the United Sates, with the smaller map a 50 percent scaled copy of the original. The edges of the two maps are parallel. Imagine that the maps are printed out, with one resting on top of the other. Believe it or not, you can stick a pin straight through both maps … Continue Reading ››