Student handout 2009

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THE MATH IMAGE PROJECT Gene Klotz

There are thousands of amazing images related to math on the web. It might be worthwhile collecting some of these images, providing thoughtful written information about the math behind them, and constructing a web site. If done well it could be used by people who like math to increase their knowledge and might even help change the attitude of some folks who don't really know what math is or think they don't like it. Moreover, the process of constructing the site and writing about the images will be a great educational experience for undergraduates. The National Science Foundation believes this enough to fund a startup program this summer.

In summer '06 a group of four Swarthmore students surfed the web, finding 1,200 potential images they thought really interesting. They're flowing by on the hallway computer opposite the department lounge. Click on an image to be taken to a beta version of the web site that we'll be working with for the project (constructed by four Swatties summer '08; summer '07 was spent refining ideas and trying to get funding.) Look over the web site for a clearer idea of what we have in mind, or check it out at http://mathforum.org/mathimages/. (You can find out about the other students from the About page, which is under Help for some strange reason—hey, they made it that way and this is a beta version.)

Alas, there are no substantial pages showing what we're trying to do—constructing the site didn't leave time for this, but recent alumn Abram Lipman has started to work on it. Also, I have funds that could be used THIS COMING SEMESTER if you'd like to work with me to create a page. We also expect that creating a page would sometimes make for a good class project—let me know if you have the opportunity and are interested.

You'll note that the web site uses the same sort of software as Wikipedia, chosen because it's attractive, easy to use, and will allow other people to contribute information and images—interacting with these people should also be a good educational experience.

Basically, we hope that pages, as is the case with Wikipedia, will grow substantial material over time, even different approaches and interactive educational experiences. To encourage interactive material, there will be a half-dozen computer science students at Drexel working with a computer graphics professor (and collaborating with the Swarthmore folks) to produce pages where parameters can be changed, and other interactive activities tried out.

The project will be for the length and pay of a normal Swarthmore research project. Freshpeople are encouraged to apply, not just upperclasspersons. Of course minorities and women are very welcome.

Aside from myself, Swarthmore folks who will be involved include Steve Maurer as writing specialist and coach, Ann Renninger of Education, who will do evaluation, and a recent graduate to generally help the student workers.

Please feel free to meet with me and discuss the project further. ~GK