The Math Images Project has begun as a wiki collaboration between the Math Forum at Drexel University and Swarthmore College. The Project aims to introduce the public to mathematics through beautiful and intriguing images available on the web. Using MediaWiki software, the Project encourages a collaborative atmosphere in which contributors find images and write about them both to learn the mathematics involved and to explain it to others. Ideally, the page creators will interact with users of the site to clarify and enrich the material.
In the summer of 2009 a group of Swarthmore and other undergraduates interested in mathematics began constructing pages based on math images, with the aid of some CS students at Drexel University, who helped create images and interactive programs to enhance the written material. This was funded by a CCLI grant from the National Science Foundation and based upon considerable preparation, as explained in History below.
The collaboration has proved so successful that we have a special section Math Tools highlighting the programs developed which are particularly valuable in learning mathematics. In addition, we have added a section Math for Computer Graphics devoted to the mathematics behind computer graphics.
Moreover, one of our fundamental beliefs is that students can learn a great deal of mathematics by carefully writing about it, and this seems to have been clearly demonstrated.
The National Science Digital Library and National Science Foundation provide the NDR, or National Science Digital Library Digital Repository. The NDR stores links and metadata to websites for use by educators and researchers. The Math Images Project uses the wiki extension built by the NSDL to submit page links and metadata to the NDR, allowing the Project to be of use to a broader education community.
On a smaller scale, the wiki uses an internet forum wiki extension to replace the community portal, thus allowing easy discussion and administration of the threads. The new community portal is designed to allow easy interaction between contributors and the developers, as well as serving as a mini-blog and feedback forum.
Open Collaboration and Images
The Project, like Wikipedia, requests that all images be released under the GNU GPL in order to maintain the open "Copyleft" approach.
We are now at a point where we welcome thoughtful contributions to the site from the world at large, for example students or teachers at other institutions, perhaps as classroom or summer projects. Or those who are just fascinated on the amazing images that can be created using some mathematics.
The Math Images project began as a gleam in the eye of Gene Klotz who teaches at Swarthmore College and plays at the Math Forum @ Drexel. In the summer of 2005 then Swarthmore students Rebecca Benjamin, Chayapa Darayon, Samantha Graffeo, and Jon Greenberg fished the web and discovered over 1200 images they found both interesting and related to mathematics. They also developed a database containing detailed information about the images. (Interestingly, perhaps a third of these images are no longer available on the web, although good new material keeps arriving.) Working with ITS staff member Liz Evans and Math Lab Coordinator Steven Amgott, they also incorporated screensaver software to show the images on a computer in the department hallway.
During the summer of 2006 Swarthmore student Wenxin Du developed software that nicely illustrated the ideas we then had in mind, many of which have since changed for the better. For, during the next summer, developing several wikis with Swarthmore students Rachel Lee, Heidi Wong, and Sam Schneider, it became clear that MediaWiki software was the way to go for Math Images. NSF’s CCLI agreed and gave us a Stage 1 grant enabling students at Swarthmore and Drexel to work on the project during the summer of 2009, and the NSDL (National Science Digital Library) Technical Infrastructure Group at Cornell University to work with a group of Swarthmore students to develop the wiki site.
So during the summer of 2008, Swarthmore students Keith Blaha, Maria Kelly, Chengetai Mahomva, and Will Hopkins developed the beta version of the site you’re now visiting (with a little help from programmers Liz Evans at Swarthmore, and Amir Tahvildaran and Seymen Fishman of the Math Forum, along with the NSDL technical group at Cornell who developed some needed wiki extensions). The students did a splendid job of taking and extending the good parts of my ideas and put them in a proper context.
Summer '09: we were very fortunate to again have Maria Kelly and Keith Blaha who became black belt wiki programmers the summer before, along with Swarthmore students Brendan John, Lizah Masis, Tanya Rosenblut, Rebekah Yang, Alan Zhao, and Haverford student MaeBeth Fentress, all concentrating on producing Math Image pages. Stephen Maurer, Swarthmore professor of mathematics helped them to use writing to learn mathematics and to write well. At Drexel University we had students Timothy Cheesman, Josh DiCristo, Emily Goldberg, Mike Hershey, Matt Hinkle, Steve Lombardi, and Ayush Sobti, who all worked with the Swarthmore students, adding interactive software and further images, and expanded our material on math for computer graphics. They were under the direction of David Breen, Drexel professor of Computer Science. We had an evaluation team of Abram Lipman and Anna Phillips who worked under Swarthmore professor of Education K.Ann Renninger to help us with both formative and summative evaluaion. Our technological needs were looked after by Andrew Reuthier of Swarthmore College, together with Amir Tahvildaran and his crew at the Math Forum.
Thanks, everybody. GK 8/09.