Haptic app helps visually impaired learn math

For the blind and visually impaired, it can be nearly impossible to follow along when a math teacher spends most of a lecture in front of a blackboard or projector drawing shapes, parabolas, X-Y planes, and other visuals.

It's about time there's an app for that, thought mechanical engineering grad student Jenna Gorlewicz, who'd spent a few years at Vanderbilt's Medical and Electromechanical Design Laboratory miniaturizing endoscopic robotic capsules and was looking for a more people-oriented project.

So Gorlewicz, who says she loves both teaching and math, set out 18 months ago to try to develop a tablet app that uses haptic (or tactile) technology to help the visually impaired learn math and other subjects with a strong visual component.… Read more

Hair's to you! A geometric haircut for math geeks

I'm growing my hair out, but I may have to reconsider my decision after seeing what British artist Nick Sayers has been up to.

Sayers is known for his geometric-art explorations. He decided to wear his passion on his head with a complex pattern of rhombuses shaved into his hair. The geometric cut was featured in Make's Math Monday column.

Carving four-sided shapes all over your head is deceptively complex. The human head is a challenging canvas with plenty of curves to throw off a geometric pattern. … Read more

Better streaming audio and a unique puzzle game: iPhone apps of the week

As most people know, the thing about buying anything in the computer and gadget world is that you run the risk of your item becoming obsolete after the next revision. People often complain about Apple in this way (first-generation iPhone, anyone?), but it's mostly true across the board: with advances in technology coming so rapidly these days, the neat gadget you got this year will probably be mainstream by next year. It's just the nature of the tech business.

Even though I was armed with knowledge of the "early adopter" phenomenon well before I bought my iPad, it still hurt to read rumors over at AppleInsider saying a refresh of the iPad complete with a front-facing camera might be coming sooner rather than later. Sure, I have the ability to use FaceTime on my iPhone 4, but all that screen real estate is certainly going to make video calls better on the iPad. Much better.

So, here's your chance, readers! Go ahead and gloat--you made the right choice and waited. You didn't fall prey to the keynote for the "magical" device and now you're in the perfect position to get a better version. Congratulations! Now, try not to be too hard on me.

This week's apps include an streaming-audio app with a slick interface, and a fun and addictive puzzle game that will test your math skills.… Read more

Dual-stick geometric shooter

AbstractWar is a fast-paced, top-view, vector-graphics-based arcade shooter, with multiplayer options over Bluetooth.

AbstractWar gives you several interface options, for both your POV and controls, and none of them is particularly good: in the game's Options page (in Spanish only), you can switch between virtual joysticks or accelerometer control (tilting your device to move), and you can choose from various views, including always-centered and stationary ("Classico") modes. "Classico" is often easier because you can see all your enemies, but if you're using virtual joysticks (which are more responsive and reliable than the accelerometer controls) … Read more

Geometry Playground takes shape in SF

Does the thought of geometry bring back stressful high-school math memories? Geometry Playground, a new exhibit opening Friday at San Francisco's Exploratorium, could help you rethink your associations with proofs, polygons, and acute angles by moving geometry from the textbook realm to, well, the playground realm.

The exhibit includes a series of experiential displays that let you do things like crawl inside giant 3D spaces; watch yourself in a big curved mirror as you try to play hopscotch; look into a tapered kaleidoscope to see a live video creating a 120-sided shape; and use a flashlight to "draw&… Read more

Gravity-defying balls channel M.C. Escher

If you think your eyes have played tricks on you before, check out this video. It shows four little wooden balls that seem to defy gravity by rolling uphill on four slopes built of cardboard. The balls seem drawn to the slopes' peaks, as if by magnetism. That's why this bizarre creation, by Kokichi Sugihara of the Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences in Kawasaki, Japan, won the 2010 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest.

The illusion is entitled "Impossible Motion: Magnet-like Slopes." When turned around, it becomes apparent that the slopes are actually … Read more

Geometry study application

If you need help with geometry studies, this app may be just the assistance you're looking for. Tutors and homeschoolers alike will find features to appreciate in this easy-to-use tool.

GEUP launches a screen-size window, with an editing pane that takes up most of its space. This pane is edged along top and its left side with a row of icon-stamped buttons. Although the icons may initially intimidate novice users, familiarity will increase with practice. Students can't necessarily learn geometry by using the tool alone, but using it in connection with a textbook or study guide will certainly … Read more

Mathematics teaching tool

Home schoolers, high school tutors, and students needing additional mathematics study will find this many-featured app a handy addition to their toolbox. It provides assistance for grasping two-dimensional function graphs with animation, analyzing functions, understanding analytic geometry, solid geometry, and more.

Math Studio launches a three-paned interface similar to the familiar e-mail client design: the upper-left vertical pane is a graph manager, the lower-left pane is a result editor, and the large pane on the right is a plotting area for displaying graphs. However, the cluster of icons in the three toolbars aligned along the interface's top may intimidate … Read more

Shape maker

Learn about the world of polyhedrons with Poly. The program lets users build cubes and varieties of polyhedrons to explore and manipulate onscreen. Geometry teachers and math buffs alike will enjoy this program.

Poly's interface is fairly intuitive to use, but there is a demo that you can watch and a Help file that you can consult for extra guidance. The Help file includes information about handy keyboard shortcuts, as well as information about Polyhedron categories. You can export the shapes that Poly renders as GIF files, which is handy for math teachers who want to create geometry worksheets … Read more

Calculate volume or area with a few clicks

If you slept through geometry class or you need help with trigonometry studies, this app may be just the tutor you're looking for.

Geometry launches a compact but easy-to-use and functional interface with three small panes. It's a bit plain looking, but looks aren't everything--performance counts a lot with this app. One pane lists the type of calculations (3D area and volume, 2D area, coordinate geometry, right triangle geometry, trig, arcs and sectors), the second lists the shape or theorem or law to be tested, and the third illustrates the item chosen from the second pane. Clicking … Read more