Mathematics playground

October 18, 2013 - Geekiness

This summer, Amanda Clare and I won a small grant for teaching development. The idea was to use the stuff I teach (HTML5, JavaScript) to help students learn the stuff Amanda teaches (Mathematical concepts for computer scientists). We won just under £2k from the Aberystwyth University Learning and Teaching Enhancement fund, and we spent most of it on employing Mike Sheldon, a recent Aberystywth PhD graduate. I can thoroughly recommend working with Mike – he’s not only a good coder but he’s really quick at understanding problems, and imaginative at coming up with solutions. If we manage to get funding to extend the site, I’d employ him again immediately.

The idea of the site is that it’s a set of interactive examples, which let students experiment with equations and concepts without actually necessarily understanding the maths. It’s based on the idea that sometimes, an intuitive understanding (this kind of sum has this kind of visual effect) can really speed up that deeper mathematical understanding. I know that I find learning maths much easier if I can picture it in my head! It also enables Amanda to use interactive animations in her lectures, rather than trying to sketch things on the whiteboard. What it isn’t is a full e-learning or teaching site – we hope it complements existing courses, without pre-supposing any pedagogical structure or curriculum. Basically it’s just a collection of thematic examples and interactive graphical illustrations. We currently have trigonometry, vectors, matrices (arithmetic and transformations), quadratic equations, and prob & stats. We’d like to extend it and have a to-do list already though!

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Mathematics Playground. I think my favourite is the unit circle, showing how sin cos and tan change, but to be honest? I like it all.

We’ve got about £100 left, which we will spend on some lunches for groups of students who’ll test the site for us and give us their opinions. We’re also looking for people outside of Aber to use the site – I think it’s probably of broader interest (maybe even for A-level students). If you use it, please get in touch – we’d love to have feedback on how it works, what people think it’s good for, and how it can be improved.

› tags: computing / students / teaching / university /


  1. Fenny says:

    Adorable Niece #1 is doing A level Further Maths. She got an A* in her A2 Maths in the summer. I’ll send it to her and see if she’s interested.

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