All posts by Daniel Scher

Daniel Scher, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at KCP Technologies. He co-directed the NSF-funded Dynamic Number project (http://dynamicnumber.org). He has developed Sketchpad activities across the entire mathematics curriculum, from elementary school through college. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at New York University.

A Quartet of Ellipse Constructions

It's the season for NCTM regional conferences, and I'm presenting sessions on conic section construction techniques in both Richmond and Houston this month. For those of you who can't attend, here's a peek at what I'm demonstrating. The 17th-century Dutch mathematician Frans van Schooten developed "hands-on manipulatives" centuries before the term became popular in math education circles. Below … Continue Reading ››

Isosceles Triangle Puzzles

As readers of this blog can probably tell, I like puzzles. I especially enjoy taking ordinary mathematical topics that might not seem puzzle worthy and finding ways to inject some challenge, excitement, and mystery into them. This week, I set my sights on isosceles triangles. It's common to encounter isosceles triangles as supporting players in geometric proofs, but … Continue Reading ››

Dancing Unknowns: You Haven’t Seen Simultaneous Equations Like These!

When it comes to simultaneous equations, I like to push the bounds of conventional pedagogical wisdom. In an earlier post, I offered a puzzle in which elementary-age students solve for four unknowns given eight equations. Now, I'd like to present a puzzle that might sound even more audacious: Solving for ten unknowns. Oh, and … Continue Reading ››

The Dynamic Ebbinghaus Illusion

We've all seen amazing examples of illusions, but did you know that there is a fertile community of researchers creating new ones? The Best Illusion of the Year contest and website provide a showcase for celebrating illusions. This year's winner for best illusion was created by Christopher D. Blair, Gideon P. Caplovitz, and … Continue Reading ››

The Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem

According to Wikipedia, the Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem, named after mathematician and philosopher Luitzen Brouwer, states that "for any continuous function f mapping a compact convex set into itself, there is a point x0 such that f(x0) = x0. This is a deep theorem,  but one aspect of it is lovely, surprising, and entirely approachable by high-school geometry … Continue Reading ››

Danny’s Ellipse

In the early 1990s, Danny Vizcaino, a high school student at Monte Vista High School in California, wrote to Key Curriculum Press noting that Sketchpad did not come with a tool to draw an oval. Undaunted by this omission, Danny had built his own oval with the software and shared it with Key's editors. As shown in the interactive … Continue Reading ››

Logic Puzzles Made Visual

When I was child, I loved to solve the brainteasers in logic puzzle magazines. You probably know the type: Ruth, Phyllis, and Joan each bought a different kind of fruit (orange, apple, pear) and a different vegetable (spinach, kale, carrots) at the supermarket. No one bought both an orange and carrots. Ruth didn't buy an apple or kale.Continue Reading ››