Exploration, innovation, proof: For students, teachers, and others who are curious, keeping your mind open and ready to investigate unusual or unexpected properties will always lead to learning something new. Technology can further this process, allowing various behaviors to be analyzed that were previously memorized or poorly understood. This article shares the adventure of one such discovery of exploration, innovation, and proof that was uncovered when a teacher tried to find a smoother way to model conic sections using dynamic technology. When an unexpected pattern regarding the locus of an ellipse's or hyperbola's foci emerged, he pitched the problem to a ninth grader as a challenge, resulting in a marvelous adventure for both teacher and student. Beginning with the evolution of the ideas that led to the discovery of the focal locus and ending with the significant student-written proof and conclusion, we hope to inspire further classroom use of technology to enhance student learning and discovery.
Chris Harrow and Lillian Chin
I always seek activities that might stretch my students yet would be accessible to them; that might require logical thought yet would contain counterintuitive elements; that might provide the opportunity to venture into new mathematical realms yet would have a simple starting point. This article and the activity that inspired it did indeed arise by way of a relatively straightforward problem that I proposed to one of my classes.
Readers comment on published articles or offer their own ideas.
Craig J. Cullen, Joshua T. Hertel, and Sheryl John
Technology can be used to manipulate mathematical objects dynamically while also facilitating and testing mathematical conjectures. We view these types of authentic mathematical explorations as closely aligned to the work of mathematicians and a valuable component of our students' educational experience. This viewpoint is supported by NCTM and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM).
Regarding the reflection “On the Area of a Circle” by Cheng, Tay, and Lee (MT April 2012, vol. 105, no. 8, pp. 564-65), it is possible to prove that one can arrange infinitely many sectors of a circle into a rectangle to show that a circle's area is π2. However, the authors' derivation is invalid because they assume their conclusion by using the area of the circle within their proof.
Dick J. Smith and Eric F. Errthum
Many mathematics instructors attempt to insert guided exploration into their courses. However, exploration tasks frequently come across to students as contrived, pertinent only to the most recently covered section of the textbook. In addition, students usually assume that the teacher already knows the answers to these explorations.
Adam Poetzel, Joseph Muskin, Anne Munroe, and Craig Russell
Using simple materials, a Mathematica software application, and their knowledge of function transformations, students design and create real mathematical sculptures.
Dae S. Hong
This article shows how to explore the golden ratio using GSP. Golden rectangles, spirals, triangles, and pentagons are also discussed.
Randy F. Hall
When the diameter of a basketball must be within a certain tolerance, what are the implications for the surface area and volume of the basketball?