I’m teaching two sections of Multivariable Calculus this semester. Each class has 3 hours of lecture and a 1 hour 20 minute lab each week. Last week the students were learning about parametric equations. So in lab I wanted to give them some hands-on experience with 2-dimensional parametric curves. Their assignment was to create a work of art using Grapher (Apple’s free graphing program) and parametric curves. They worked on the projects in lab for about an hour (in pairs, mostly). Some finished in that time, but others finished outside of class. The results were fantastic, so I thought I’d share them here.
Here is a pdf of the lab assignment.
This lab was not my idea. It was written by my colleague Lorelei Koss. It was also classroom-tested by my colleague Jen Schaefer. This semester I took their feedback, changed the lab a little, and used it in my class. Lorelei said that she got the idea from Judy Holdener and Keith Howard at Kenyon College and Tommy Ratliff at Wheaton College. I’ve also found some similar ideas in the mathematical literature: there’s an article by Barry Tesman (also a colleague of mine) and Marc Sanders, “MATH and other four-letter words,” College Math Journal, Nov. 1998, and “Painting by Parametric Curves and Van Gogh’s Starry Night,” by Stephen Lovett, Matthew Arildsen, Jon Jones, Anna Larson and Rebecca Russ, Math Horizons, Nov. 2010.
Here are their amazing works of art (click to see a slide show):