01/12/1995 08:00:00

Project Mathematics! Goes Global

PASADENA— Project MATHEMATICS!, a series of videotapes and accompanying workbooks that use the powerful tool of computer animation to help viewers "see" and grasp mathematical ideas, is working with organizations abroad to expand the project's reach. International interest has continued to increase since the non-profit project began seven years ago, and project director Tom M. Apostol is pleased with the growing response and the ability to reach more students.

Recently Apostol concluded an agreement with the Roberto Marinho Foundation in Rio de Janeiro for translating project materials into Portuguese. After working in cooperation with Brazilian and local contacts to ensure correct translation of language and content, a master copy of "The Story of Pi" was shipped to Brazil. The Marinho Foundation will duplicate the Portuguese version and distribute it free of charge to 1,000 Video Escola centers throughout Brazil, which, in turn, reach more than 9 million Brazilian high-school students.

Apostol has also been working in conjunction with a Korean-American businessman and philanthropist on the preparation of a Korean translation of all the modules for distribution to South Korean schools. Most recently the project has been approached by Israel Educational TV, a non-profit governmental organization that provides educational programs to schools throughout Israel, to create a Hebrew translation of the series.

With the help of its extensive distribution network and successful fund-raising efforts, Project MATHEMATICS! has been able to reach literally millions of students nationally and now globally. More than 121,000 copies of the first eight videotapes are currently in circulation within the United States. Several TV stations across the country, including KLCS (Los Angeles), Ohio Public Broadcasters, and WNET (New York), regularly broadcast project videotapes. Modules are also widely distributed in Canada and overseas. PAL versions of the tapes are being shipped from the Caltech Bookstore to Australia, Denmark, and Great Britain. The recent and upcoming translations into foreign languages add yet another dimension to the expanding project.

Created by Tom Apostol to enhance and improve upon the standard mathematics curriculum in high schools and community colleges, Project MATHEMATICS! has taken traditional mathematics education a step further by using video technology to help students visualize concepts and understand them more easily. His ally is James F. Blinn, one of the world's top computer animators, who holds a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for pioneering work in computer animation and its applications to education.

"We want to reveal the wonders of mathematics with powerful moving images that grab the students' attention and stimulate their interest so they'll want to learn more," says Apostol, Caltech professor of mathematics, emeritus.

Based at the California Institute of Technology with principal funding from the National Science Foundation now totaling $3.1 million, Apostol and Blinn have completed eight modules: The Theorem of Pythagoras, The Story of Pi, Similarity, Polynomials, Teachers Workshop, and three programs on Sines and Cosines. The animation is designed and executed by Blinn on a network of personal computers donated by the Hewlett-Packard Company. Special grants from the Intel Foundation helped provide free distribution of some of these modules nationwide. Production continues on new modules, and the project is also studying the feasibility of producing interactive multimedia CD-ROM versions of its materials.

Written by Sue McHugh