20 January 2007

Digital Images in the Mathematics Class

Using digital images as the subject of mathematical analysis can bring interest and focus to high school students.

Last October, I attended many valuable sessions at the Australian Computers in Education Conference, ACEC 2006.

One of my favourites was Jim Lowe's workshop on “Using digital images in the Maths and Science classroom”. Jim is the Project Director at the Centre for Excellence in Maths, Science & Technology located at Redcliffe State High School in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland.

Here is the abstract for his ACEC presentation:
Digital images (both still and video) provide a way of bringing the real world into the maths and science classroom. A range of freely available resources enable valuable data to be extracted from digital media to be analysed in the maths and science classroom. This session is focussed on high school curriculum. Still images provide a wealth of material for maths classes in years 8-10 and beyond while video clips provide data for both maths and physics students to analyse real life motion.

During the workshop, Jim demonstrated many ways that digital images could be used as an introduction or as the basis of a mathematical investigation. Many of the resources we tried are available or described on the resources page of the RITEMATHS Project.

I particularly liked GridPic, free software running on Windows XP that allows students to experiment with fitting different functions over a digital image. As Jim mentioned in his presentation, you can tell that it was developed by a teacher because there is no button that finds the solution automatically. The students have to work it out for themselves.

The RITEMATHS paper presented at the 2004 MAV Conference contains references to many resources including Adrian Oldknow’s excellent collection.

In the last few years, even more visual tools have become freely available including the measurement tool in Google Earth and the Travel Planner from NRMA. Now we just need the imagination to build them into our lessons.

The item that got me thinking about Jim's workshop again was the wonderful Flickr assignment developed by Darren Kuropatwa.

The public image storage website, Flickr now allows you to annotate a photograph by adding a “note” or hot spot. When I saw the annotations about Curtain Trigonometry by one of Darren's students, I was amazed. It is the perfect example of the slogan I often use with my students - "Maths is Everywhere".

That photograph alone convinces me I have to try using images with my own classes this year.