Math Forum - Problem of the Week

In the Dark with an Elephant

Please keep in mind that this is a research project, and there may sometimes be glitches with the interactive software. Please let us know of any problems you encounter, and include the computer operating system, the browser and version you're using, and what kind of connection you have (dial-up modem, T1, cable).


Five blind men found an elephant. Each felt the animal and described it to the others. An argument ensued.

"The elephant is like a rope," said the first man, feeling the tail.
"No, the elephant is like a wall," said the second man, feeling the side.
"The elephant is like a blanket," said the third man, feeling its ear.
"The elephant is like a tree," said the fourth man, feeling its trunk.
"You're confused. The elephant is like a spear," said the fifth man, feeling its tusk.

Then came the King. He saw the whole elephant and he alone discerned the reality of the elephant.

In this Problem of the Week, you will explore how the look of a graph of a function can vary, depending on how you set the domain and range of the graph window.

To Do and Notice:

Open the applet, below. (Note: Turn up the volume on your computer.) Experiment with changing the number values for the minimum and maximum for both the domain and range. Notice how the graph and axes look different each time after you press "Zoom." Notice that each domain and range you try is recorded in the table to the right of the graph.



Click To Show Applet Window


  1. What are the values for domain and range that you found to make the working window look like:
      View A:
      View B:
      View C:
  2. Describe a strategy to make a curve look like a line.
  3. Using what you did in this PoW, explain why people might have believed the world was flat.

© 1994-2005 The Math Forum