Upper School mathematics teacher Marshall Gordon’s article “The Mathematics of Fountain Design,” originally published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and chosen to appear in the 2014 volume of The Best Writing on Mathematics, will be translated into Portuguese for inclusion in a mathematics journal of the Brazilian Society of Mathematics.
Gordon will be speaking on “Critical Thinking and Mathematical Habits of Mind” this August at the Mathematics Association of America’s MathFest meeting in Washington DC.
Marshall Gordon has been on the Park faculty since 1985.
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Fountain Design in the Curriculum
Mathematics students in the Upper School study quadratic equations. For example, the equation h(t) = -16t2 + 40t +3 can be understood to represent the height of an object as a function of time. In this case, the object is initially 3 feet off the ground which is projected into the air with a velocity of 40 ft/sec. The ‘-16t2’ term represents the distance the object falls as a consequence of gravity. In eleventh grade mathematics classes, Dr. Gordon’s students take on the project of re-engaging that equation to represent the parabolic trajectories and vertical jets at fountain pools. They need to include not only the velocity of their fountain arcs but also the angle of entry from the surface of the fountain, as well the height as a function of distance into the pool. As part of this project, each student designs a fountain that would represent the equations they generated.
Pictured below, 3-D model by Josh Rifkin ’13.
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