The Power of Mathematical Visualization

The Power of Mathematical Visualization
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24 videos in this collection

The Power of a Mathematical Picture
Professor Tanton reminisces about his childhood home, where the pattern on the ceiling tiles inspired his career in mathematics. He unlocks the mystery of those tiles, demonstrating the power of…
Visualizing Negative Numbers
Negative numbers are often confusing, especially negative parenthetical expressions in algebra problems. Discover a simple visual model that makes it easy to keep track of what's negative and what's not,…
Visualizing Ratio Word Problems
Word problems. Does that phrase strike fear into your heart? Relax with Professor Tanton's tips on cutting through the confusing details about groups and objects, particularly when ratios and proportions…
Visualizing Extraordinary Ways to Multiply
Consider the oddity of the long-multiplication algorithm most of us learned in school. Discover a completely new way to multiply that is graphical--and just as strange! Then analyze how these…
Visualizing Area Formulas
Never memorize an area formula again after you see these simple visual proofs for computing areas of rectangles, parallelograms, triangles, polygons in general, and circles. Then prove that for two…
The Power of Place Value
Probe the computational miracle of place value--where a digit's position in a number determines its value. Use this powerful idea to create a dots-and-boxes machine capable of performing any arithmetical…
Pushing Long Division to New Heights
Put your dots-and-boxes machine to work solving long-division problems, making them easy while shedding light on the rationale behind the confusing long-division algorithm taught in school. Then watch how the…
Pushing Long Division to Infinity
"If there is something in life you want, then just make it happen!" Following this advice, learn to solve polynomial division problems that have negative terms. Use your new strategy…
Visualizing Decimals
Expand into the realm of decimals by probing the connection between decimals and fractions, focusing on decimals that repeat. Can they all be expressed as fractions? If so, is there…
Pushing the Picture of Fractions
Delve into irrational numbers--those that can't be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers (i.e., as fractions) and therefore don't repeat. But how can we be sure they don't…
Visualizing Mathematical Infinities
Ponder a question posed by mathematician Georg Cantor: what makes two sets the same size? Start by matching the infinite counting numbers with other infinite sets, proving they're the same…
Surprise! The Fractions Take Up No Space
Drawing on the bizarre conclusions from the previous lecture, reach even more peculiar results by mapping all of the fractions (i.e., rational numbers) onto the number line, discovering that they…
Visualizing Probability
Probability problems can be confusing as you try to decide what to multiply and what to divide. But visual models come to the rescue, letting you solve a series of…
Visualizing Combinatorics: Art of Counting
Combinatorics deals with counting combinations of things. Discover that many such problems are really one problem: how many ways are there to arrange the letters in a word? Use this…
Visualizing Pascal's Triangle
Keep playing with the approach from the previous lecture, applying it to algebra problems, counting paths in a grid, and Pascal's triangle. Then explore some of the beautiful patterns in…
Visualizing Random Movement, Orderly Effect
Discover that Pascal's triangle encodes the behavior of random walks, which are randomly taken steps characteristic of the particles in diffusing gases and other random phenomena. Focus on the inevitability…
Visualizing Orderly Movement, Random Effect
Start with a simulation called Langton's ant, which follows simple rules that produce seemingly chaotic results. Then watch how repeated folds in a strip of paper lead to the famous…
Visualizing the Fibonacci Numbers
Learn how a rabbit-breeding question in the 13th century led to the celebrated Fibonacci numbers. Investigate the properties of this sequence by focusing on the single picture that explains it…
The Visuals of Graphs
Inspired by a question about the Fibonacci numbers, probe the power of graphs. First, experiment with scatter plots. Then see how plotting data is like graphing functions in algebra. Use…
Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Graphing
Throw away the quadratic formula you learned in algebra class. Instead, use the power of symmetry to graph quadratic functions with surprising ease. Try a succession of increasingly scary-looking quadratic…
Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Algebra
Learn why quadratic equations have "quad" in their name, even though they don't involve anything to the 4th power. Then try increasingly challenging examples, finding the solutions by sketching a…
Visualizing Balance Points in Statistics
Venture into statistics to see how Archimedes' law of the lever lets you calculate data averages on a scatter plot. Also discover how to use the method of least squares…
Visualizing Fixed Points
One sheet of paper lying directly atop another has all its points aligned with the bottom sheet. But what if the top sheet is crumpled? Do any of its points…
Bringing Visual Mathematics Together
By repeatedly folding a sheet of paper using a simple pattern, you bring together many of the ideas from previous lectures. Finish the course with a challenge question that reinterprets…

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The Power of a Mathematical Picture
Professor Tanton reminisces about his childhood home, where the pattern on the ceiling tiles inspired his career in mathematics. He unlocks the mystery of those tiles, demonstrating the power of visual thinking. Then he shows how similar patterns hold the key to astounding feats of mental calculation.
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Visualizing Mathematical Infinities
Ponder a question posed by mathematician Georg Cantor: what makes two sets the same size? Start by matching the infinite counting numbers with other infinite sets, proving they're the same size. Then discover an infinite set that's infinitely larger than the counting numbers. In fact, find an infinite number of…
The Power of Place Value
Probe the computational miracle of place value--where a digit's position in a number determines its value. Use this powerful idea to create a dots-and-boxes machine capable of performing any arithmetical operation in any base system--including decimal, binary, ternary, and even fractional bases.
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Visualizing Negative Numbers
Negative numbers are often confusing, especially negative parenthetical expressions in algebra problems. Discover a simple visual model that makes it easy to keep track of what's negative and what's not, allowing you to tackle long strings of negatives and positives--with parentheses galore.
Visualizing Ratio Word Problems
Word problems. Does that phrase strike fear into your heart? Relax with Professor Tanton's tips on cutting through the confusing details about groups and objects, particularly when ratios and proportions are involved. Your handy visual devices include blocks, paper strips, and poker chips.
Visualizing Extraordinary Ways to Multiply
Consider the oddity of the long-multiplication algorithm most of us learned in school. Discover a completely new way to multiply that is graphical--and just as strange! Then analyze how these two systems work. Finally, solve the mystery of why negative times negative is always positive.
Visualizing Area Formulas
Never memorize an area formula again after you see these simple visual proofs for computing areas of rectangles, parallelograms, triangles, polygons in general, and circles. Then prove that for two polygons of the same area, you can dissect one into pieces that can be rearranged to form the other.