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Topic: Geometry Center Software Conference
Replies: 65   Last Post: Jan 25, 2005 9:53 PM

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Gene Klotz

Posts: 336
Registered: 12/3/04
G.Center Conf.: Thoughts on a Materials Development Program (LONG)
Posted: Jan 25, 2005 9:53 PM
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Here's one result of the conference:

Thoughts on a Geometry Center Materials Development Program
The following is a position paper on what I think the Geometry
Center Materials Development Program might be. The views expressed herein
are solely my own, and are being circulated with the hopes that your
comments will help improve them as we attempt to construct a proposal to be
submitted to the NSF. The paper is longer than I would like, but this
promises to be a complicated undertaking.

Do note that some of the activities which might interest us may not
be supportable under the Materials Development program of the NSF. Certain
very worthwhile activities--perhaps some aspects of educational research
and teacher training--may need to be supported elsewhere. Nonetheless, for
the moment we should be concerned with constructing the best possible
program, and be prepared to make hard choices and further efforts when the
situation demands.

Gene Klotz 7/28/93
Table of Contents
our role
how we'll interact with some associated groups
(1) researchers in mathematics education
(2) other materials developers
(3) publishers
roles of some special needs in our program
(1) gender, race, the handicapped
(2) assessment
(3) testing
computer programs
computer platforms
(1) needed
(2) interested parties
The proposed Geometry Center Materials Development Program will provide a
natural and convenient means to harness the geometric visualization power
of the Center for the purposes of education, and in particular to provide
an interface to the education community whereby the intellectual power of
research mathematicians can be well utilized.

We have in mind an atelier for materials development, patterned loosely on
the existing Center, with programmers, software developers, mathematicians,
classroom teachers, appropriate visitors (sabbatical, apprentice,
short-term, etc.), all toiling together within a context which allows for
both free interaction and focused work.

Of course, there are many differences between software development for
schools and for research mathematics. For the former much more time is
necessary for re-design to meet user needs, and to obtain a good user
interface. Debugging must be more thorough, and documentation and
ancillary support materials carefully prepared. To the mix of participants
it is necessary to add persons from mathematics education, testing and
assessment, publishers, teachers, and students--a computer classroom will
be necessary.


The program will focus on three-dimensional geometry. As several
conference attendees independently pointed out, kids live in a
three-dimensional world, and they often appear more interested in spatial
than planar geometry. Intuition and judgments about three-dimensional
objects--and about these objects depicted on a two-dimensional screen--is
called for on computer monitors in industry, in scientific visualization,
and on video displays in many aspects of everyday life.

Unfortunately, three-dimensional geometry has all but disappeared from both
the school and college curriculum. Fortunately, most of the present large
curriculum development projects deal directly with three-dimensional
geometry, and it was the subject most frequently mentioned by the project
representatives at our conference in which they would welcome assistance.

We see three separate media which have great potential to help students and
teachers learn about three-dimensional geometry: computer programs, videos,
and "manipulatives"--and these hands-on models have an especially important
role to play in understanding how to interpret two-dimensional images as
three-dimensional objects (perhaps when used in conjunction with practice
in drawing). We will discuss this further under "Technology" below.


How can we be sure of producing materials that will be widely used? We
will work with interested groups who are in the process of developing
curricula and are interested in the educational possibilities afforded by
new technology, and who see the need to train students for a world
permeated by technology.

In particular, we are following up on the interest expressed by
representatives from a number of the large NSF sponsored curriculum
development groups: Mike Battista of the TERC project, Phil Wagreich of
TIMS, Jim Middleton of NCRMSE, Johnny Lott of SIMMS, and Bill Berlinghoff
of the Hartford Alliance. We will explore possible collaboration with the
other NSF groups, as well; members of the planning team will hold
discussions with all of the other projects interested in possible

We hope to work with other groups involved in curriculum development
relating to three-dimensional geometry. In particular, the Connected
Geometry Project at EDC has expressed an interest in collaborating with us.
We would also welcome possible involvement with others to develop
three-dimensional geometry for a community college course, and with authors
of college geometry texts.

In a different direction, geometric visualization has become an
indispensable tool of research scientists, and their programs are filtering
down to the college level, and also to schools (for example, there are
several projects devoted to this being supported be NSF's Applications of
Advanced Technology program). Science education frequently needs
mathematics beyond that formally studied by the students, and this will be
exacerbated in computer visualization programs, which demand mathematics
such as multivariate statistics, partial differential equations, and the
like. Following Jeff Weeks' rallying cry of "intuition before theory!", we
would like to explore working with scientists to develop videotapes which
could give students a sense of what is going on mathematically in
scientific visualization, and which mathematics courses study these topics.
If mathematicians fail to meet the new needs of the scientific community,
we run the risk of scientists attempting to meet these needs and succeeding

our role
In general, our plan is to share ideas and to develop technology in close
collaboration with curriculum development groups, but to have these groups
develop the curriculum. We do not plan to undertake curriculum development
on our own, since we have no experience and lack appropriate personnel.
Moreover, the standard curriculum lacks the space for the course we would
be most in a position to develop, one on three dimensional geometry (there
are battles already being waged to introduce statistics, discrete math, and
business math into the curriculum). Also, successful new curricula may
obviate the need for such a course.

While we are reluctant to develop curricula, we think it important that we
not only work with teachers to familiarize them with the new technology and
how to use it, but that we help provide written materials and videos to
assist in this endeavor. We will collaborate with teacher groups to
develop such materials for teachers, and to develop technology-oriented
classroom materials for students to augment what will be done by the
curriculum development programs.

To this end, we are building ties with several teacher groups. Jim King
has an organization spawned by a Regional Geometry Institute. Herb Clemens
is involved with a cross-section of elementary schools in Utah whose
teachers and students could examine, try, and react realistically to our
materials. Martha Wallace has a number of geometry teachers trained in the
St. Olaf program. Naturally, we also hope to use our excellent contacts to
develop a local Minneapolis teacher group so we will have teachers and
their students available for immediate testing and feedback. The Center is
already beginning to work with the local base being established in
Minneapolis for the Interactive Mathematics Project (which is attempting to
provide meaningful contexts for students to use computers as part of their
problem-solving strategies).

Jim King suggests that we subcontract out to some teacher groups to write
materials and train other teachers. We invite interested parties to submit
rough ideas and the financial implications by early September, so we can
include this in the preliminary proposal. This could be a very helpful
approach to disseminating our materials.


There are some ideas on what three-dimensional geometry to teach in the
NCTM Standards (even down through the elementary grades) and members of the
curriculum development projects have thought hard about these issues.
However, with new expressions of interest from those involved in research
in mathematics education, with the Center's experience in technology and
contact with research mathematicians concerned about mathematics education,
with the advent of entirely new types of software since the Standards were
written, and with the need to develop software and other materials of broad
applicability, we think it necessary to further examine this topic.
Consequently, we propose holding a small, focused, reflective conference on
this subject late next summer. Groups and foci would include
o mathematicians: what three-dimensional geometry should be taught?
o members of curriculum development groups: what are they planning to
o researchers in mathematics education: what is known about learning
three-dimensional geometry? what would we like to know? what do they
o teachers: what are their reactions to the discussion? what do they think?

We would also like to hold a conference Fall, 1994, whose main guests would
be scientists willing to speculate on: what three-dimensional geometry is
needed for science? when? what for geometric visualization? Some persons
representing the groups at the previous conference would also be invited.


how we'll interact with some associated groups
(1) researchers in mathematics education
In his paper, Alan Hoffer mentions the scarcity of investigations that deal
with space geometry, as compared with plane geometry. He calls for a
research agenda for space geometry, and cites both new research methods and
powerful computer-related tools as contributing to the timeliness of the
endeavor. Rich Lehrer has mentioned that the challenges presented are new
and provocative, and several other persons from the discipline have
expressed potential interest.

It is our hope to make use of the special possibilities afforded by the
proposed program to work closely with researchers in mathematics education.
Their involvement can strengthen what we do and at the same time contribute
to the progress of their discipline. We encourage interested parties in
mathematics education to suggest specific programs for fruitful
interaction. Time is of the essence, since we must get a preliminary
proposal in by mid-September.

(2) other materials developers
There are others who have already made important contributions to
technology for teaching three-dimensional geometry. Alan Hoffer has some
pioneering and still very relevant software. Key Curriculum Press has some
videos (with associated workbooks and manipulatives). Jean-Marie Laborde
has announced that a three-dimensional version of Cabri will soon be out.
There is also some usage of CAD programs, and of programs such as Maple,
Mathematica, and Theorist, even though they are not aimed at the
pre-college market.

We wish to foster cooperation with other materials developers, and plan to
make available to them information gleaned from our work with the
curriculum development groups and our other resources. Those who are
willing to give as well as to take will be welcome to visit the Center and
mutually explore technical and other problems. There is important and
difficult work to be done, and it needs to be done in a spirit of openness.

(3) publishers
Publishers have important roles to play in software support, materials
dissemination, and market assessment. Moreover, the publishing industry
seems on the verge of a major revolution in which electronic multimedia and
hypermedia will partially replace paper books. This offers great promise
for the dissemination of new technology (and will possibly allow different
versions of the same material, aimed at usage with different resources,
such as various kinds of computers). It has even been suggested that we
foster multimedia development so that text will routinely be integrated
with the means to visualize it. In any event, we plan to keep in contact
with several forward-looking publishers and to involve them early on and
whenever appropriate.

roles of some special needs in our program
(1) gender, race, the handicapped
It is necessary that we produce materials which are supportive of women,
minorities, and the handicapped. It seems possible that among our
personnel we will lack specialists in at least some of these areas.
Perhaps the best way to meet our goals is to have appropriate consultants.
Consultants with much experience in technology and three-dimensional
geometry may be hard to come by. Your suggestions will be most welcome!

(2) assessment
If our materials are to be broadly used by busy teachers we must provide
assessment tools which will be easy to use with our new technology. We
might even try to improve upon the current situation--Dick Lesh asked "how
do we keep the tests from screwing up what we are teaching?" He's
potentially interested in working with us to help answer the question. His
colleague Mark Hoover has also expressed some interest, and we would like
to hear from others.

(3) testing
We need to be able to undertake frequent simple testing to see how users
react to options and interface, and to get some sense as to whether our
materials achieve teaching goals (a topic which we expect to crop up more
elaborately in the work of the mathematics education researchers).


computer programs
For a foundation, we plan to construct an engine which is modeled after the
relevant features of Geomview, the Center's very successful visualization
program. Many of our software activities undertaken with curriculum
development groups would then involve writing an appropriate front end for
this engine. This approach would allow us to achieve highly vertical
software--that is, users could work with different versions of the same
underlying program in different grade levels.

Moreover, this approach might solve the problem of what should be published
and what should be free: the engine could be given away to be used by
other developers (and by experienced teachers), while the programs with
their special user interface would be sold by publishers (who would thus be
reimbursed for the necessary user support and dissemination efforts they
would make).

computer platforms
In the rapidly changing world of computer technology, which platform(s)
shall we focus upon? Shall we go for the large installed base of
Macintoshes, or the Power PC, the RISC version of the Macintosh which will
soon be out? Perhaps PCs running the highly regarded NeXTSTEPS operating
environment? Maybe we should work with one of the long-awaited
cross-development systems for the Macintosh and PC together? There may be
a version of Macintosh's hand-held Newton or equivalents which would be the
way to go. Or how about Nintendo, which combines very good graphics, low
cost, a huge user base in student homes, but none in the schools? Or their
chief rival Sega, which has a smaller user base, but is soon to come out
with impressive sounding virtual reality?

My inclination is to hold off on the final decisions as long as possible
because of the volatility of the situation. Whatever we choose, if we take
care (and are lucky), porting our programs to different platforms should
involve little more than porting our engine (which will of course be
designed with portability in mind).

Whatever platforms we choose, not every schoolroom will have them. In many
instances we may be able to supply useful (albeit non-interactive) visual
experience with video. As we develop a new computer application, we will
become highly experienced in placing and moving important examples of the
objects being studied in the environment. The Geomview program is
convenient for real-time animation on the sophisticated hardware at the
Center, and since our engine will be patterned after this program, we will
be able to make relevant videos almost as a byproduct of our software

Groups have already expressed interest in using the Center's resources to
make their own videos on both school and college levels. Such activity
could fit in well with our intended program of working with visitors. More
"professional" computer animated videos might be undertaken when warranted,
both for the educational value and to strengthen the available video

As mentioned, we see these as imperative. Many of the curriculum
development projects will have their own recommended favorites, and we will
work with them to help illustrate and make tactile the ideas we are trying
to convey. In addition, we will make sure that our programs have the
capability of printing paper nets for objects which can be constructed
therefrom, and at appropriate scales to match objects such as spheres for
which nets are impossible but which are readily available in a variety of
sizes (pingpong balls, basketballs, etc.)

We will make strong use of email and Internet-accessible newsgroups
throughout the project. This position paper is being posted on the
Geometry Forum newsgroup in an attempt to include a broad base in our
planning, and we will continue to be open in our discussions throughout the
project. We plan to more closely link the wide variety of persons involved
through this medium, to encourage broader participation in the program, to
allow non-attendees to be included in conferences, and "outsiders" to
participate in open discussions. We will use telecommunications to offer
better support for teachers (and to receive better feedback).


(1) needed
We anticipate that the program will require at least four high level
programmers. At least one should be a specialist in user interface design,
and at least one should focus on the design and execution of the basic
engine. We will also need a separate system administrator (who would also
be in charge of the computer classroom), and quite likely a video person
(although final postproduction on videos might be contracted out). We may
well need a writer and a person skilled in desktop publishing. A
multimedia specialist may even be necessary.

Mathematicians, teachers, and those in mathematics education are likely to
serve as intellectual parents to the various projects undertaken, but they
are unlikely to be working on the project full time.

To administer the software development, the interaction with the curriculum
development groups, teachers and teacher groups, publishers, assessment and
testing, etc., the project needs a director and an associate director.
Appropriate support personnel are of course needed.

Not all of the above need to be full-time, nor do all need to be
continually in residence at the Center--although there should always be
enough to maintain the feeling of an atelier in which the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. Some of the personnel might be shared with the
existing Geometry Center, providing some relief to a hard working and
over-extended staff.

Careful thought will have to be given to an appropriate advisory board,
since this is a project which is very broad in scope. There may have to be
sub-boards specializing in some of the aspects, or a special representative
local group when fast action in a person-to-person meeting is called for.

(2) interested parties
At the moment we have expressions of interest from Bjorn Felsager, Nick
Jackiw, and Jeff Weeks to serve as experienced programmers/software
developers. We'd love to hear from others, and we also need to cultivate a
list of potential junior programmers (we already have several

Both Arnie Cutler and I (GK) are interested in serving in some
administrative capacities.

Please don't think that anything is filled, just because a name is there.
We need as many expressions of interest and nominations as we can find!


Summer 1994. Program funded and preparation begins. Conference on what
three-dimensional geometry to teach. Work begins on design of the basic
software engine as soon as possible.

Fall, 1994. Conference on what to teach for scientists and scientific
visualization. Lots of interaction with curriculum development groups (who
seem too busy for this in the summer). Work begins on several software
projects as soon as possible.

Spring, 1995. Jim King and Herb Clemens spend some time at the Center
helping to work on issues of teacher training, support, and dissemination.
Tom Banchoff may be there for a portion of this year, as well. (Other
people, too, let us hear from you).

Summer, 1995. Carefully work with some teacher groups with the modest
amount of software and videos we've produced.

The future is shrouded in the mists of time, but hey, this is only a
position paper.


There follow a number of sketches (most very brief) of ideas from various
curriculum development groups. They will be filled out in discussion with
the groups.

Mike Battista has submitted the following idea for a simple program to be
used in elementary schools. I particularly like its potential for helping
students think abstractly and to envision the depiction of
three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface.

Initial Specifications for Cube Constructions and Perspectives Program

Linked to several 3d geometry units of the NSF funded Investigations in
Number, Data, and Space curriculum.

o Help students visualize and "mentally construct" 3d cube configurations
o Engender mental operations required in the mental construction and
enumerations of 3d rectangular arrays of cubes
- coordination of different orthogonal views of faces so that one
coherent mental model of the rectangular prism of cubes can be constructed
- construction of composite units of various ranks, units that can
be used in both spatial and numerical operations

o There is a "manipulation window" in which isometric drawings of unit
cubes can be moved around with a mouse; cubes are created by clicking on a
palette icon.
o The current front, top, and side views of cube configurations in the
manipulation window appear in real-time in three separate windows.
(Objects in the four windows are the same size.) The user should be able
to hide these orthogonal-view windows.
o There is a capability to group any set of cubes so that they can be
manipulated as a unit. (That is, composite units of cubes, and even
composites of composites can be formed.)
o Any composite unit of cubes can be replicated by selecting it and
clicking on a button.
o Any composite unit can be translated by moving it with the mouse.
Such a unit can also be rotated 90d about an x, y, or z axis through its
o Capability to put a wire frame rectangular prism in the manipulation
window so that it can be filled with cubes. The user inputs the dimensions
of the prism.
Phil Wagreich has different interests for an elementary school program. He
would like to be able to work with "CAD for kids"--with as many features as
possible available from the type of program that Johnny Lott expressed
interest in below. It would appear that he would prefer a wide variety of
tools available to call upon, rather than a more sharply focused

[A middle school program will be put here, perhaps some of the ideas that
Jim Middleton began to sketch, such as a 3D wire frame program.]

[Perhaps it would be better to have a single, more detailed high school
program; I'll speak of two possible directions]

Bjorn Felsager discussed the problems of approaching a three-dimensional
geometry program with equations--it is difficult to develop a user-friendly
interface, and there are many possibilities: implicit equations, parametric
equations, lists of vertices for polyhedral objects, etc. (Moreover, it's
not clear that many users will have much need for formulas!). Instead, he
recommends using the geometric characteristics of the object.

One would have a palette of standard objects--sphere, cone, cylinder,
torus, box, pyramid, regular polyhedra, etc., which are in standard
positions. The prototypes could then be manipulated by changing their
geometric characteristics by means of translations, rotations, dilatations,
reflections. One would want to be able to use the boolean operations of
union, intersection, and symmetric difference on these objects to create
new objects.

In addition Felsager would like to be able to handle metamorphoses from one
object to another by means of interpolation (for parametric equations this
could change a rectangle into a moebius strip; for lists of vertices this
could transform one polyhedron into another). Taking into account the
multiplicity of vertices, this metamorphosis should be able to transform a
polyhedron into its dual.

Johnny Lott had a somewhat different list of desiderata, which we hope
could be accommodated by a different program built on the same engine.
(Rather than a different program, we also wish to consider having the same
program be able to call separate tools according to user need--a type of
horizontality we would like to achieve with some of our programs).

Lott was interested in coordinates, on having convenient vector
representations, and on a CAD program which was easy to use and cheap.
Several others also mentioned the need for CAD-type programs.

Date Subject Author
Read Geometry Center Software Conference
Gene Klotz
Read Geometry Center Software Conference Talks
Gene Klotz
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Introducing Change
Gene Klotz
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Introducing Change
Tom Berger
Read G.Center Conf. Demonstration: NCSA Collage
David Thomas
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology
Jeff Weeks
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology
Jorge Lopez
Read G.Center Conf. Panel: What Geometry Should Teachers Teach?
Paul Goldenberg
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Panel: What Geometry Should Teachers Teach?
Claire Groden
Read G.Center Conf.: Idea presentation
Bill Finzer
Read G.Center Conf.: Abs.: Design issues
James Blinn
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Educational software development
Paul Goldenberg, June Mark
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Educational software development
June Mark
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Geometry education research context
Gene Klotz
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology: Primary
Douglas Clements
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology: Primary
Julie Meredith
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Demonstration: TI Geometry
Jim Flanders
Read G.Center Conf. Panel: The Curriculum Development Projects
Jim Flanders
Read Re: G.Center Conf.: Schedule
Gene Klotz
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: University support of pre-college education
Herb Clemens
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Spiral problems
Paul Froeschl
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: Models
Gene Klotz
Read G.Center Conf.: Visualization
Bill Finzer
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: 3D and Beyond
Mike Battista
Read G.Center Conf. Abs.: 3D and Beyond
Alan Hoffer
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology
Wally Feurzeig
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Introducing Change
Martha Wallace
Read G. Center Conf. Abs: Software demonstrations
Kenneth Koedinger
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Teaching and technology
James King
Read G.Center Conf.: Thurston's Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf.: Misc. Comments
Evelyn Sander
Read Anecdotes and Musings from the Geom. Center Software Conf.
Claire Groden
Read Anecdotes and Musings from Geom. Center Softw. Conf.
Claire Groden
Read I took geometry in college and it was very different...
Jim Lynch
Read G.Center Conf.: Alan Hoffer's Talk
George Gross
Read Re: G.Center Conf.: Misc. Comments
Claire Groden
Read Conf.: Panel: what geometry should teachers teach?
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf: Feuerzeig Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf: King Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf: Weeks Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf: Janson Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf.: Banchoff Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G. Center conf.:Lopez and Dejter Talk
George Gross
Read Geom. & Art at the software conf.
Evelyn Sander
Read G. Center Conf: Talks: Lehrer, Jacobson
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: Istvan Lenart: 'Spherical Geometry'
Asa Packer
Read Conf.: Jean-Marie Laborde: 'Supporting mental imagery...'
Asa Packer
Read Re: G.Center Conf. Abs.: Models
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: Talk: Vedelsby and Felsager
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf: Battista Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf: Talk: Berger
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf: Demo: King
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: Francis Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf: Demo: Watt
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: West Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf.: Battista and Wagreich Talk
Evelyn Sander
Read G.Center Conf.: Talk: Burgis
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf: Demo: Koedenger
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: Bill Finzer: 'Some geometric visualizations...'
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf.: Nick Jackiw: 'Software Development'
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf.: Mark & Goldenberg: 'Curriculum units in progress...'
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf.: Steve Rasmussen: 'Design for a spherical drawing program'
Asa Packer
Read G.Center conf: Talk: Watt
Laura Dorfman
Read G.Center Conf.: Jim Blinn: 'Design Issues'
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf.: Suggestions for Materials Development Program
Asa Packer
Read G.Center Conf.: Thoughts on a Materials Development Program (LONG)
Gene Klotz

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