The Math Forum: 1998 Summer Institute - sum98

July 6-11, 1998 - Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

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July 8: Day 3

The participants started a rainy day three of the 1998 Math Forum Advanced Summer Institute by spending some time on individual projects.

Dave Kershaw next spoke on some uses of Javascript and Dynamic HTML. He began by explaining that Javascript is different from Java: Javascript was created by Netscape with the purpose of augmenting HTML, and Java was created by Sun MicroSystems.

Javascript is useful for the valuation of data in input forms. Dave encouraged the participants to adapt any of the examples available, using copy and paste. He noted a few helpful hints:

  1. In the checklist function, checkChecker(), the first line reads "thevalue = document.forum.list1.selectedIndex;". Here "list1" refers to the name of the given to the pulldown list code. Therefore the "list1" should be changed accordingly.

  2. In Dave's examples, he demonstrates the code for a button, which we had not seen before. Dave also mentioned a few other sites for examples of Javascript code.

In addition, Rob Rumppe is working on a Minneapolis Public Schools' Quiz Creator that creates an online quiz to help prepare students for the Minnesota Basic Standards test.

Following Dave's session, Bob Panoff demonstrated some of the work his organization, the Shodor Foundation, is doing online with the current version of Project Interactivate. His main focus for his morning talk was encouraging the exploration of fractals by iterating line deformations, with the idea of using applets to teach pattern recognition and self-similarity. He began with a paper and pencil exercise, where students are to draw a line with an "kink" in it and then replace each segment with the structure drawn. Bob noted that this exercise becomes tedious quickly, and thus defines a point where using the Internet becomes beneficial.

In one example, Bob demonstrated several different deformations, explaining that they qualitatively model regeneration of healthy skin, the growth of a benign tumor, and the spread of a malignant tumor. The lessons are organized into three segments: "What?" asks questions to be investigated; "How?" explains how to use the applet; and "Why?" develops other applications. In addition, there are lessons linked to the table of contents of several math texts.

Bob is looking for feedback about these pages, particularly for how to expand the "What?" and "Why?" segments. The Institute participants suggested adding information that would link the explorations to real world uses, developing exercises that would require more participation from the students (similar to Sketchpad), and organizing feedback with annotations so that others could view some participant results.


After lunch, Judy discussed developing effective online units. She finds that, in particular, listing a table of contents and background information (such as target age groups) is helpful for faster navigation. When inserting applets, it also helps students to see instructions alongside the applet. However, Bob noted that applets can be more easily available to several links when they stand alone.

Ron Knott then talked about "Finding Fibonacci Frequently," where the "Rabbits" puzzle is the original one that Fibonacci used in 1202 to define the sequence of numbers that now bears his name, and several parallel and pleasant puzzles producing this progression. Ron says the aim of this exercise is to see if we can find more - and to experience how the production of our own puzzles may induce students to understand a problem more and spot mathematical relationships more easily.

Suzanne Alejandre then showed her Position Paper from the Standards 2000 and Technology Conference, and her Traffic Jam Activity for teachers and for students.

Following these discussions, Nicole and Tushar introduced Spimsow (Swarthmore Summer Project for the Implementation of Mathematical Software on the Web), with displays of Mathematica, Maple, and Mathview notebooks on the Web. Of the three, Mathview is the least powerful, although it is the most interactive. Students can rotate graphs and change equations to experiment with graphs already created, but it's necessary to download a Mathview plug-in to do so.

To put a Maple notebook on the Internet, you generate the notebook in Maple and save it as an HTML file. Maple will then create three Maple HTML files and a graphics file that must be uploaded using FTP. To see Mathematica on the Internet, you can download the application helper Math Reader from the Web. Nicole and Tushar noted that with Maple and Mathematica notebooks, it is not possible to create an interactive environment, but you can see their example notebooks, also on the Web.


After looking at several online discussion communities, the participants moved upstairs to have a face-to-face discussion on online communities.

- Betsy Teeple, The Math Forum

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