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What makes a parabola relevant to kids?

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Conveying to kids the idea that math plays an important part in their lives is, as any math teacher can tell you, one of the most difficult things about teaching math. The blackboard, the book and rote memorization were for years the only tools math teachers had; that, and the hope that they were getting it across. As most of us are aware, for the great majority of kids over the years it wasn’t enough.

Fortunately, technology has changed the course of math instruction. Take for example the image below that asks the question, “is the path of the stream parabolic?” In days of yore there were two ways of answering the question, the first of which was by defining a parabola. A Google search for the definition yields us this: a symmetrical open plane curve formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane parallel to its side. The path of a projectile under the influence of gravity ideally follows a curve of this shape.

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Huh?

Graph paper was the second answer; and of all the many math procedures that never made any practical sense to the non-math inclined, drawing graphs rates near the top of the list. Graphing, as defined by the Online Free Dictionary, might indeed exhibit “the relationship, often functional, between two sets of numbers as a set of points having coordinates determined by the relationship,” but could never answer the question most kids might ask, “What’s this got to do with me?”

Recent digital technology has given us a third answer to the question, “is the path of the stream parabolic?” This answer, in the form of RobotsLAB’s MATHBALL is not only easier to demonstrate to kids than the first two, it is a lot more fun and engaging.

The MATHBALL was originally designed to assist pro-basketball players who wanted to perfect their shots in a systematic manner. RobotsLAB realized that the manufacturers of MATHBALL were on to something that would fascinate kids and we have combined their digital wonder with our own included lesson plans designed to assist teachers with Algebra and pre Calculus

A MATHBALL looks a lot like a basketball … which is exactly what it is! A basketball filled with digital sensors that can plot and display a parabola like no graph paper ever could.

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  • Jul 16, 2014 10:00:00 AM

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