Animators in the Classroom

Jeffry L. Hirst

Appalachian State University, Boone, NC


The graphical presentation of mathematical concepts is a cornerstone of the current reform of undergraduate mathematics. Computer generated animations literally add an additional dimension to this graphical approach, capturing the kinetic content of much of mathematics. The goal of this project is to establish a laboratory environment where students become animators, experimenting and creating animations that illustrate mathematical concepts. Simultaneously, we must maintain the students' focus on the mathematical concepts by insulating them from the technical details.


We are developing curricular materials directed at calculus and linear algebra students consisting of procedures for the Maple mathematics software and instructions for their use. These will be presented as web pages. Students will use standard cut and paste techniques to copy the procedure from their web browser into a Maple worksheet. Following the instructions, they will be able to enter parameters into the procedure and execute it. The procedure will generate an animation illustrating a mathematical concept and corresponding to the parameters chosen by the student. Since students can experiment and modify the animations by changing the parameters, this project is not merely a collection of “canned” video clips. Such collections are interesting, but serve a different pedagogical purpose. Our Maple procedures can be thought of as laboratory tools, not just videos of laboratory tools in use.

Sample materials: