This site provides graphs and in-depth historical background on dozens of famous mathematical curves such as the cycloid, conic sections, Lame curves, Lissajous curves, the tractrix, the Witch of Agnesi, and many others. It traces the development of each curve from its discovery to its further applications and includes the graph along with Cartesian and parametric or polar equations. Most of the curves have accompanying interactive Java applets to illustrate related curves such as inverse and evolute. The site contains many cross-references to math history topics and other sources. This is one of a number of sites that are part of the award-winning MacTutor History of Mathematics Archives; please see the review of the MacTutor site for more details.
Type of Material:
Most of the materials simply require a browser; to view the interactive Java applets for famous curves, the browser must be Java-enabled. Java applets work fine on Windows operating systems and on Mac systems using Internet Explorer; however, they do not seem to work using Macintosh operating systems and Netscape Navigator.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Resource material for student papers on general math/history/mathematicians. Classroom enrichment for instructors.
Target Student Population:
General arts students with little mathematical knowledge or advanced users wanting to investigate the history aspect of the curves.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
None, but some background knowledge of calculus is useful for a deeper understanding.
Useful for both experienced and casual student users. Nicely written and easy to read. The interactive Java applets offer interesting insight into related curves. This site includes many links for those who want to follow up on more of the math details.
Please see the review for the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archives, the parent site for the Famous Curves web page. The MacTutor site is a rich and growing source of materials pertaining to the history of mathematics including biographies of mathematicians, mathematics in various cultures, time lines, famous curves (with Java interactivity), overview of math history, in-depth coverage of a large number of history topics, and more. Individual pages contain many crosslinks and material is well-written and useful for both casual and experienced users. There is also a searchable quotation index as well as a selection of recent articles on the history of mathematics education and Indian mathematics. Faculty as well as students will find much here to enrich their mathematical understanding and enjoyment.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Many crosslinks as well as references to other famous curves, mathematicians, math history topics, and more.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Easily readable. Many links, both internal and external, to related topics and mathematicians.
Interactive JAVA on famous curves didn't run on a number of Mac operating systems with Netscape as a browser. Otherwise seemed stable and fast - especially the search engine.
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