In this series, I’m compiling some of the quips and one-liners that I’ll use with my students to hopefully make my lessons more memorable for them.

In differential equations, we teach our students that to solve a homogeneous differential equation with constant coefficients, such as

,

the first step is to construct the characteristic equation

by essentially replacing with , with , and so on. Standard techniques from Algebra II/Precalculus, like the rational root test and synthetic division, are then used to find the roots of this polynomial; in this case, the roots are and . Therefore, switching back to the realm of differential equations, the general solution of the differential equation is

.

As , this general solution blows up (unless, by some miracle, ). The last two terms decay to 0, but the first term dominates.

The moral of the story is: if any of the roots have a positive real part, then the solution will blow up to or . On the other hand, if all of the roots have a negative real part, then the solution will decay to 0 as .

This sets up the following awful math pun, which I first saw in the book Absolute Zero Gravity:

An Aeroflot plan en route to Warsaw ran into heavy turbulence and was in danger of crashing. In desparation, the pilot got on the intercom and asked, “Would everyone with a Polish passport please move to the left side of the aircraft.” The passengers changed seats, and the turbulence ended. Why? The pilot achieved stability by putting all the Poles in the left half-plane.

In this series, I’m compiling some of the quips and one-liners that I’ll use with my students to hopefully make my lessons more memorable for them.

The function typically exhibits exponential growth (if ) or exponential decay (if ). The one exception is if , when the function is merely a constant. Which often leads to my favorite blooper from Star Trek. The crew is trying to find a stowaway, and they get the bright idea of turning off all the sound on the ship and then turning up the sound so that the stowaway’s heartbeat can be heard. After all, Captain Kirk boasts, the Enterprise has the ability to amplify sound by 1 to the fourth power.

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Loc Nguyen. His topic, from Precalculus: introducing the number .

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

To be able to understand where the number e is produced in the first place, students need to understand how compound interest is calculated. Before introducing the number e, I will definitely create an activity for the students to work on so that they can eventually find the formula for compounding interest based on the patterns they produce throughout the process. The compound interest formula is F=P(1+r/n)^{nt}. From this formula, I will again provide students a worksheet to work on. In this worksheet, I will let P=1, r=100%, t=1, then the compound interest formula will be F=(1+1/n)^{n}. Now students will compute the final value from yearly to secondly.

When they do all the computation, they will see all the decimal places of the final value lining up as n gets big. And finally, they will see that the final value gets to the fixed value as n goes to infinity. That number is e=2.71828162….,

How has this topic appeared in the news?

To help the students realize how important number e is, I would engage them with the real life examples or applications. There were some news that incorporated exponential curves. First, I will show the students the news about how fast deadly disease Ebola will grow through this link http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2014/09/18/349341606/why-the-math-of-the-ebola-epidemic-is-so-scary. The students will eventually see how exponential curve comes into play. After that I will provide them this link, http://cleantechnica.com/2014/07/22/exponential-growth-global-solar-pv-production-installation/, in this link, the article talked about the global population rate and it provided the scientific evidence that showed the data collected represent the exponential curve. Up to this point, I will show the students that the population growth model is:

Those examples above was about the growth. For the next example, I will ask the students that how the scientists figured out the age of the earth. In this link, http://earthsky.org/earth/how-old-is-the-earth, the students will learn that the scientists used Modern radiometric dating methods to calculate the age of earth. At this time, I will show them radioactive decay formula and explain to them that this formula is used to determine the lives of the substances such as rocks:

How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

To introduce to the students what the number e is, I will engage them with two videos. In the first video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFgod5tmLYY, the math song “e a magic number” will engage the students why it is a magic number. While watching this clip, the students will be able to learn the history of e. Also the students will see many mathematical formulas and expressions that contain e. This will give them a heads up that they will see these in future when they take higher level math. It is also pretty humorous of how Dr. Chris Tisdell sang the song.

In the second video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-MZumdfbt8, it explained why e is everywhere. The video used probability and exponential function to illustrate the usefulness of e, and showed how e is involving in everything. It gave many examples of e such as population, finance… Also the video illustrates the characteristics of the number e and the function that has e in it. Watching these videos will enhance students’ perception and understanding on the number e, and help them to see how important this number is.

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Irene Ogeto. Her topic, from Precalculus: graphing exponential growth and decay functions.

How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.

The Legend of the Chessboard is a famous legend that illustrates exponential growth. A courtier presented a Persian king with the chessboard and as a reward the courtier asked the king for a grain of rice in each square of the chessboard, doubling the amount in each new square. The king agreed and gave the courtier 1 grain of rice in the first square, 2 grains of rice in the second, four grains of rice in the third and so on. The king didn’t realize how rapidly the amount of grain of rice would grow in each square. This video would be a great way to engage the students into the topic at the beginning of the lesson. The Legend of the Chessboard shows how rapidly exponential functions can grow. After watching the video the students can try to guess or calculate the total number of grains of rice the courtier would get in the end. Afterwards, the students can then graph the exponential function.

The students can use this website to check their guess:

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

In order to explore graphing exponential growth and decay functions, the students could play a card sort matching game. The students will work in groups to play the card sort matching game. Some students will be given the graphs and have to use the points given to derive the equation. Some groups will be given the equations and have to create the graphs of the exponential functions. As a class, we will go over graphing exponential growth and decay functions and analyze the graphs. The students will be expected to identify the domain, range, asymptotes, y-intercepts and whether the graph is exponential growth or exponential decay. Also, we could explore how exponential functions compare to other functions that we previously studied. This is a great activity that can be used as review before an exam.

How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Exponential functions are used to model different real world scenarios involving population, money, finances, bacteria and much more. Students can use exponential functions in other courses such as Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Economics. In calculus, students explore differentiation and integration of exponential functions. Given the position of an object in exponential form, students can use Calculus to determine if the object will stop moving. Newton’s Law of Cooling is an example in physics that demonstrates exponential decay. Compound interest is a major application of exponential functions in finances. Exponential population growth, carbon dating, pH and concentrations of drugs are other examples in math and science that can be modeled by exponential growth and decay functions. In addition, students explore logarithmic functions, the inverses of exponential functions. Being able to recognize and graph exponential growth and decay functions is an important concept that can help students’ in their future courses in math or science.

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Chais Price. His topic, from Precalculus: exponential growth and decay.

How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Every year in elementary through high school it seemed like I had some form of standardized test. These test typically consist of various problems, which include patterns and sequences of patters style of problems. I always found it more helpful when being introduced to more complex and intimidating concepts, to relate the general idea to something much more simplistic. When teaching a lesson on exponential growth and/or decay I plan on starting off the lesson with problems like:

These two patterns are pretty basic and finding the next one in the sequence shouldn’t be to difficult. This begs the question what if I wanted to find some enormous value for n. For questions d, a student can answer the question by drawing or counting but it will take some time. Or the student could find an equation that models the sequence of patterns. The equation would obviously be an exponential. From this point the teacher could discuss how these functions appear on the graph by simply observing what is happening in the sequence. In the first picture alone with the triangles, we only have 4 triangles shown and the first triangle is solid black. If we continue on, the next one in the sequence would represent basically our x values on a graph and the amount of triangles growing exponentially represents the y values. By using this previous knowledge the teacher was capable of relating a new concept with a much simpler approach.

How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

Has anyone ever asked you if you would rather have a million dollars, or a penny that doubles everyday for an entire month? I heard this question probably when I was in high school. I am pretty sure that I picked a penny that doubled everyday for a month only because it was the least obvious and it seemed like a trick question. However this is an example of how only 31 days explode into a fortune. After the first week of doubling you only have a little over a dollar. In fact you really don’t start making any real money until about the middle of the 3^{rd} week if you chose to have a penny double everyday for a month. It turns out that by the last day of the month you end up with over 21 million dollars. This is once again because the function is growing exponentially. The link at the bottom of the page has a story that uses this same idea about a raja from India who made a young girls request to have a grain of rice double everyday for a month. This story can be fun to read and engaging for the students as well. After the story is read, there is a calendar where the students will fill in each day the amount of rice given to Rani, the young girl in the story. This calendar has a few random days filled in so the students know if they are on the right track. This activity serves as an engage/ explore for more of an introduction to exponential growth. The students could graph this function of type some points into the calculator to see the function explode. Let x represent days and y represent the grain of rice each day.

How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Dan Myers is a teacher who developed a style of teaching called the 3 act lessons, which incorporates multiple technology applications such as video recording, as well as imaging and photo editing. Each act is designed to teach a lesson like a movie divided up into parts. I came across this lesson of his which I think is awesome. In act 1, there is a 24 second video with these words at the beginning: “ a smaller domino can topple a domino that is up to 1.5 times larger in every dimension. “ The guy on the video explains that the smallest domino is 5 mm high and 1mm thick. This is all you are given. Then the teacher asks something to the class along the lines of “ If you wanted to topple over a domino the size of a sky scraper, how many dominoes would you need? “ This opens the door for students to both question and reason. Make a prediction and write it down. Have the students write down an answer they know is too high and one they know is too low. That is the end of act one. As we get into act to we need more information just like in a movie. Act 2 answers the question how many dominoes are present in the video. It also provides a data sheet that has the heights f several sky scrappers. This is a very discussion style lesson so in act 2 we would continue to promote discussion and questions. Then finally in act three we come to the conclusion. The man in the video had 13 dominoes and the biggest one was barely up to his waste. It turns out that if we were to keep adding dominoes that grew 1.5 times more than the previous one, the 29^{th} domino would be as tall as the Empire State Building. That is exponential growth at its finest.

I’m using the Twelve Days of Christmas (and perhaps a few extra days besides) to do something that I should have done a long time ago: collect past series of posts into a single, easy-to-reference post. The following posts formed my series on how the trigonometric form of complex numbers, DeMoivre’s Theorem, and extending the definitions of exponentiation and logarithm to complex numbers.

Part 1: Introduction: using a calculator to find surprising answers for and . See the video below.

Part 2: The trigonometric form of complex numbers.

Ordinarily, there are no great difficulties with logarithms as we’ve seen with the inverse trigonometric functions. That’s because the graph of satisfies the horizontal line test for any or . For example,

,

and we don’t have to worry about “other” solutions.

However, this goes out the window if we consider logarithms with complex numbers. Recall that the trigonometric form of a complex number is

where and , with in the appropriate quadrant. This is analogous to converting from rectangular coordinates to polar coordinates.

Over the past few posts, we developed the following theorem for computing in the case that is a complex number.

Definition. Let be a complex number so that . Then we define

.

Of course, this looks like what the definition ought to be if one formally applies the Laws of Logarithms to . However, this complex logarithm doesn’t always work the way you’d think it work. For example,

.

This is analogous to another situation when an inverse function is defined using a restricted domain, like

or

.

The Laws of Logarithms also may not work when nonpositive numbers are used. For example,

I’m doing something that I should have done a long time ago: collect past series of posts into a single, easy-to-reference post. The following posts formed my recently completed series on various applications of exponential growth and decay.

Part 1: Introduction: continuous compound interest and the phrasing of homework questions

In this series of posts, I provide a deeper look at common applications of exponential functions that arise in an Algebra II or Precalculus class. In the previous posts in this series, I considered financial applications, radioactive decay, and Newton’s Law of Cooling.

Today, I discuss the logistic growth model, which describes how an infection (like a disease, a rumor, or advertise) spreads in a population. In yesterday’s post, I described an in-class demonstration that engages students while also making the following formula believable:

.

I’d like to discuss some observations about this somewhat complicated function that will make producing its graph easier. The first two observations are within reach of Precalculus students.

1. Let’s figure out the intercept:

.

In other words, the number represents the initial number of people who have the infection.

2. Let’s figure out the limiting value as gets large:

.

As expected, all people will get the infection eventually. (Of course, Precalculus students won’t be familiar with the $\displaystyle \lim$ notation, but they should understand that decays to zero as gets large.

3. Let’s now figure out the point of inflection. Ordinarily, points of inflection are found by setting the second derivative equal to zero. Though this can be done for the function above, it would be a somewhat daunting exercise!

The good news is that the points of inflection can be found quite simply using the governing differential equation, which is

Let’s take the derivative of both sides, remembering that and are constants:

So the second derivative is equal to zero when either or else . The first case corresponds to the trivial cases and ; these constants are called the equilibrium solutions. The second case is the more interesting one:

This suggests that, as the infection spreads throughout a population, the curve changes concavity at the time that half of the population becomes infected. In other words, the infection spreads fastest throughout the population at the time when half of the population has been infected.

The time at which the point of inflection occurs can be found by setting and solving for :

.

.

This technique for finding the points of inflection directly from the differential equation is possible whenever the differential equation is autonomous, which loosely means that the independent variable does not appear on the right-hand side.

In this series of posts, I provide a deeper look at common applications of exponential functions that arise in an Algebra II or Precalculus class. In the previous posts in this series, I considered financial applications, radioactive decay, and Newton’s Law of Cooling.

Today, I introduce the logistic growth model, which describes how an infection (like a disease, a rumor, or advertise) spreads in a population. For example:

In yesterday’s post, I described an in-class demonstration that engages students while also making the following formula believable:

.

Where does this formula come from? Suppose that a disease is spreading in a population of size . It stands to reason that the rate at which the disease spreads is proportional to the number of possible contacts between those who have the disease and those who don’t. If is the number of people who have the disease, then is the number of people who don’t have the disease. Therefore, the product is the number of possible contacts between those who have the disease and those who don’t. This leads to the governing differential equation

,

where is the constant of proportionality. This is often rewritten by letting , or :

The good news is that this differential equation can be solved using separation of variables, just like the governing differential equations for continuous compound interest, paying off credit card debt, radioactive decay, and Newton’s Law of Cooling. The bad news is that it’s a lot harder to calculate the required integrals! After all, the right-hand side, after distributing, has a term containing , which makes this differential equation non-linear.

Solving this differential equation is a bit tedious, and I don’t feel particularly obligated to re-invent the wheel since it can be found several places on the Internet. Suffice it to say that integration by partial fractions and some very tricky algebra is necessary to solve for and obtain the solution above. Among several different sources (which likely use different letters than the ones I’m using here):