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3D Printing and Mathematics

“In Calculus 3, when you go from a two-dimensional world to a three-dimensional world, it is perfect to help students see, Definitely in my calculus classes we would use 3D printers.”                                              Sharon Sledge, San Jacinto College (Texas) Professor of Mathematics

3D Printing can help students envision graphs and mathematical models. Due to the way our brains function it is difficult grasping numbers and figures that we see on paper. 3D printing helps us to easily see them through tangible representations.

“A 3D printer is a perfect example of an input/output” system, that a final printed product can demonstrate that it’s made up of a network of ‘x,y,z’ coordinates used to create the structure of an object, and that the technology can be used to show students concepts like how to intersect a plane with a cube.”                          Megan Mead - Project Manager and Math Contributor at Getting Smart

Software packages such as Mathematica can translate algebraic expressions into 3D forms that are then created as tangible, low-cost, plastic objects that students can hold in their hands, take home, and/or pass around the class. Workshop participants are given a series of progressively more complex design challenges and are also asked to come up with their own individual objects of interest to create. Each class ends with something that has never existed before printing on the 3D printer. These techniques empower teachers and students to create physical versions of anything that can be described mathematically with algebraic, trigonometric, and Boolean functions. They introduce students to the creative side of mathematics and provide a powerful motivation for learning the details.

“A lot of the math we teach is procedure and skill based. It doesn’t have a lot of application, and when it does the applications are usually contrived. Students know that. They see that. They get that, and anything that we can do to make it more real, and tie it to things that actually have meaning to them would be beneficial,” White said. “I am trying to figure out how 3D printing might give learning more meaning. I think students would find 3D printing interesting, but not necessarily meaningful. So I am exploring in order to see, in the context of a developmental math course or a general education math course, could you integrate 3D printing in a way that would reinforce mathematical concepts, while simultaneously increasing the motivation and interest level of students?”

                    Keith White, Associate Professor of Developmental Mathematics, Utah Valley University

In Conclusion

Its time the curriculum in schools be viewed from the different perspective, a different dimension if you will. The amount of visualization and practicality 3D printing brings to the subject of mathematics is incomprehensible.

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