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Wolfram Demonstrations to Snag incoming math students

  1. Apr 16, 2012 #1
    This weekend a math professor asked me (rather last minute) to sit at the math table for one of our sessions geared towards high school students looking to come to our university. I had a great deal of fun doing this - trying to get kids thinking about and excited about coming to our school to major in math.

    "But we need to do more..." I told him.

    The physics table (right next to us) of course had a cool holographic demonstration that captured people's interest and brought them over. "We need something like this!"

    Aside from possibly throwing a few klein bottles and perhaps origami on the table, I'm thinking of using some Wolfram Demos, or something similar, that people can come up an interact with. (Yeah, I kind of took charge of the situation. The professor is actually quite pleased.)

    I'm wondering if anybody has any ideas on how to execute this. The demos are here: http://demonstrations.wolfram.com (you need to download a rather large plug in.)

    A few things I'm thinking about:

    Touch screen interaction. (May have to bug our I.T. department.) Otherwise We can just have a mouse or track ball.
    Need to lock it down somehow, at least partially, though I'll be there the whole time.
    Should I pick one demo and leave it there or find some way to circulate or choose between demos?

    Or, any other ideas. They don' have to be wolfram.

    Again, the target audience is high school kids anywhere from "I guess I need math" to "I'm not sure" to "I really love math."

    -Dave K
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2012 #2
    This should be in the academic guidance sub-forum. Also, I don't think Wolfram's demo are going to do it. They're boring unless you already know what's up. And the Klien bottle? No way. I mean it's just a bottle with the neck through it to them.

    You know what reaction-diffussion is? Beautiful. Order from chaos. How could life emerge from the disorder of the primeval earth? Know what Catastrophe Theory is? One little fish, just one, remove it from the pond and the entire population collapses. Wonder why things in the world suddenly and abruptly change for no apparent reason. 600 million years ago, something happened. Two million years ago something happened. 14 billion years ago something happened. Do you know what the cubic differential equation looks like? On the top surface simple life forms arose, reaching the cusp, they fell onto a disparte plateau. Two million years ago, primates roamed the upper surface. Reaching the cusp and falling, hominids emerged and ruled the plateau below. Know what the Lorenz attractor is? Trajectories never cross. Wonder why there is so much diversity in the world?

    There is nothing better in the world to explain the world than Mathematics and nothing better in mathematics to do that than differential equations.

    Tell your students a long time ago a young boy use to look out his window and wonder why things are the way they are out there. Then he began to study non-linear differential equations. He's grown now and no longer wonders why about a lot of things.
  4. Apr 17, 2012 #3
    All very cool - but how to demonstrate this? Keep in mind I'm at a table in a loud room amongst other tables in different departments. We're kind of like a booth trying to "Sell" mathematics to the students. First I have to lure them in with something interesting looking, then I can maybe do a short pitch. But I can't really do any extensive speaking. (Though I think we need more outreach lectures as well.)

    Dave K
  5. Apr 17, 2012 #4
    Ok, I got a way to demonstrate it without speaking. You got access to resources? Ok, create a large poster, large as you can make it, all nice and richly colored and illustrated. Draw the cusp catastrophe for the cubic differential equation:


    Write that equation in large letters at the bottom of the poster. On the top surface of the cusp, draw monkeys, apes, walking (on all four) towards the cusp, some falling over it, and during the trajectory downward, they change, more hominid-like, hitting the surface below, walking, running building, creating, achieving, to the far left of their path, a shuttle lifting into orbit. At the top of the poster, write in big letters:

    The Power of Mathematics
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
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