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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Math Professors Laud 3D Printing’s Classroom Potential

Caroline Miller, discovered, after speaking with Math professors from all over the country, that 3D printing helps ground abstract mathematical concepts in real life applications. This is why so many professors are anxious to get more printers into college classrooms.

 Look at a classroom with 3D printing capabilities 

It seems like mathematics and 3D printing have a natural affinity, but how do you explain this? It also seems there are as many ways to explain this as there are 3D printed items, and one woman set out to understand this by attending a preconference session on 3D printing at the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics (ICTCM) which was held in March 2015. Pearson Education, the corporate education giant, sent Caroline Miller to check this session out. This was one of the most highly attended sessions of the conference, and we are about to find out why.

The explanations were quite varied but all mentioned the need for concrete application of abstract concepts (especially in calculus classrooms). Keith White, Associate Professor of Developmental Mathematics, Utah Valley University, explained his interest in 3D printing is helping students learn how to apply math in a real world environment with a tangible outcome. White reports that 3D printing motivates his students, piques their interests, and reinforces mathematical concepts as a major bonus.
A lot of the math we teach is procedure and skill based. It doesn’t have a lot of application, and when it does the applications are usually contrived. Students know that. They see that. They get that, and anything that we can do to make it more real, and tie it to things that actually have meaning to them would be beneficial,” White said. “I am trying to figure out how 3D printing might give learning more meaning. I think students would find 3D printing interesting, but not necessarily meaningful. So I am exploring in order to see, in the context of a developmental math course or a general education math course, could you integrate 3D printing in a way that would reinforce mathematical concepts, while simultaneously increasing the motivation and interest level of students?


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