A Quartet of Ellipse Constructions

It's the season for NCTM regional conferences, and I'm presenting sessions on conic section construction techniques in both Richmond and Houston this month. For those of you who can't attend, here's a peek at what I'm demonstrating. The 17th-century Dutch mathematician Frans van Schooten developed "hands-on manipulatives" centuries before the term became popular in math education circles. Below … Continue Reading ››

Tribute to Zalman Usiskin

On November 6 I had the honor of being one of the panelists in a Symposium Honoring Zalman Usiskin, held to honor Zal’s many years of contributions to mathematics education, from his groundbreaking 1971 textbook Geometry: A Transformation Approach (GATA) to his continuing activities today. My panel was supposed to discuss his work on … Continue Reading ››

Isosceles Triangle Puzzles

As readers of this blog can probably tell, I like puzzles. I especially enjoy taking ordinary mathematical topics that might not seem puzzle worthy and finding ways to inject some challenge, excitement, and mystery into them. This week, I set my sights on isosceles triangles. It's common to encounter isosceles triangles as supporting players in geometric proofs, but … Continue Reading ››

Dancing Unknowns: You Haven’t Seen Simultaneous Equations Like These!

When it comes to simultaneous equations, I like to push the bounds of conventional pedagogical wisdom. In an earlier post, I offered a puzzle in which elementary-age students solve for four unknowns given eight equations. Now, I'd like to present a puzzle that might sound even more audacious: Solving for ten unknowns. Oh, and … Continue Reading ››

Pentaflake Chaos

Dan Anderson commented on my Pentaflake post to observe that the pentaflake can also be created by a random process, sometimes called the Chaos Game. In this game you start with an arbitrary point and dilate it toward a target point that's randomly chosen from some set … Continue Reading ››
pentflake

How do you make … a pentaflake?

A couple of days ago I got an email from my long-time friend Geri, who was spending some quality Sketchpad time with her 12-year-old grandson Niels. Geri emailed me for advice because Neils was having some trouble figuring out how to construct a pentaflake. Neither Geri nor Niels had any idea that I'd never even … Continue Reading ››

The Dynamic Ebbinghaus Illusion

We've all seen amazing examples of illusions, but did you know that there is a fertile community of researchers creating new ones? The Best Illusion of the Year contest and website provide a showcase for celebrating illusions. This year's winner for best illusion was created by Christopher D. Blair, Gideon P. Caplovitz, and … Continue Reading ››

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