Project Mathematics!

Published on Sunday, July 22, 2012 in , , , , ,

Merlin2525's Geometry 4 imagePlaying around with the math and graphics inGeogebra, the computer algebra system I mentioned in my previous post, I was reminded of a series of educational programs I used to watch on public television long ago.

I couldn't even remember the name, but a little digging eventually turned it up. It was called Project Mathematics!, and produced by Caltech from 1988 to 2000. I've found some of the episodes online, and will share them with you.

According to the Project Mathematics! homepage, there were 9 episodes total, plus a teacher's workshop tape. The teacher's workshop tape included brief segments of each of the episodes to give a general idea. You may have seen the Pi segment of the teacher's workshop tape on YouTube:

That's only a short clip (amusingly, it's about 3:14 long). The full Story of Pi episode is about 25 minutes long, and goes into much more detail about Pi.

The earliest episode I could find online was The Theorem of Pythagoras, at the Internet Archive's Moving Image Archive, courtesy of A/V Geeks.com. Even though you might not have seen the previous episode on similarity, the prerequisites on the video catch you up well. BetterExplained.com's post Understanding Why Similarity "Works" can help fill in the rest of what you might have missed.

After this episode cam the Story of Pi episode mentioned above. The next 3 episodes all deal with the nature of sines and cosines. Part 1 explores the reason sines and cosines are important when examining functions that repeat at regular intervals. Part 2, below, examines how sines and cosines are used in trigonometry. Part 3 delves into the nature and use of the addition formulas for sine and cosine.

All the episodes on YouTube are posted by NASA, so they should remain available there for the foreseeable future.

A site called GhanaTubes (presumably based in the West African nation of Ghana) hosts the Polynomials episode. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn't very good on this version.

If you have the RealPlayer plugin, you can watch some clips from the episodes, including the missing first episode Similarity, as well as the final two episodes, The Tunnel of Samos and Early History of Mathematics.

Besides Project Mathematics!, Caltech also used the same style of animation in their series The Mechanical Universe, which was a course in college-level physics. As mentioned in my science documentary post last year, Google Video still hosts the full series online.

Take the time to watch a few of these in full. Even if you're not interested in the subject matter itself, I think you'll find that they're fun and engaging, making them great lessons in how to teach effectively.

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