A New Spin on Geometry

Hannah Cargo, Writer

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One of the hardest things to grasp in math is how the equation on the board pertains to the real world. Now, in the FM9 center, geometry students are using technology to understand math in a real-world situation and have fun while they’re at it.

Matthew Murdock’s class has been programming Sphero and Ollie robots to run a course using trigonometry.

“The way we use them is that [the students] program them to run a specific course,” Murdock said. “So they have to [program] how fast they need to go, how long they need to go there, and then when they make their turns, they’ve got to, from a coordinate grid, [figure out if they] have to turn 73 degrees to the left and continue on, or 80 to the right. It goes real well with the trig unit because they’ve got to use all those angles and measurements.”

According to Murdock, this project is fairly difficult, and it takes a lot of trial and error to get the robot to roll in the correct direction. Students can make an error in the math or programming, or have a glitch in the program, which is not too uncommon.

“The math they do on the paper and the math they have with the programming doesn’t always translate to a real-life roll with the robot,” Murdock said. “Sometimes it does some crazy stuff!”

Despite the frustrations, the students tend to enjoy the project and the robots. In order to add a little spark, sometimes the students race for time.

“Watching them program and race, and [watching] the things that happen during the race [is] very impressive,” Murdock said. “It’s always fun to watch them compete.”

One thing’s for sure: this math class is anything but boring.