Math Girl makes calculus easier

January 13, 2005, vol. 32, no. 1
By Diane Luckow



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When cartoon character Pat Thagorus is stuck on Square Root X mountain, Math Girl comes to his rescue with her snowboard.

She uses the board and calculus to determine where she should stand on the curve of the mountain to help Pat and whether or not her arm is long enough to reach him.

The three-dimensional, still motion cartoon characters are a colourful, comedic and clever attempt to bring a complex calculus problem to life and explain its principles and everyday usefulness to students.

Conceived by math lecturer Veselin Jungic, the cartoon is the result of a coordinated effort between three high school students, learning and instructional development centre (LIDC) illustrator Lou Crockett, LIDC scriptwriter Jesai Jayhmes and Jungic.

Math Girl's voice emanated from LIDC instructional developer Jill Jodrey, while Burnaby North high school student Damir Jungic (Veselin's son) played the voice of Pat Thagorus. High school students Celina Chan from Moscrop secondary school and Joyce Lam from Vancouver Technical secondary school helped conceive the script.

The cartoon's impressive animation and original music score, all created by Crockett, will run on the mathematics department's website, in SFU calculus classes and at upcoming conferences Jungic plans to attend.

He also hopes to distribute the cartoon to high school calculus classrooms.

"With the current generation of students, perhaps it is more practical to communicate with them in such a way," suggests Jungic, who used a small PromoScience grant from the National Science and Engineering Research Council to finance the project.

Certainly the launch brought laughs from the 500-strong lecture hall audience, indicating that they did understand the cartoon's complex math calculations.

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