PROPOSAL - Shapes of Multivariable Calculus

contributed by: Luke Wolcott
go back to category: Movement


This is an activity proposal, and hasn't been tried yet. Students would be challenged to physically express the images and gestures that they use to understand calculus in 3D space.

Description of activity

One of the keys to succeeding in multivariable calculus is developing an ability to “see” what is going on. Often this seeing is accompanied with moving. When I explain, and when I watch students explain, our hands move vigorously to trace out movements and shapes.

I imagine a group activity that prompts students to reflect on various mental imagery and physical gestures they use to understand the ideas and theorems of multivariable calculus. This reflection is a settling in to the body, to foreground the embodied understandings that have miraculously developed through weeks of sitting still and working with paper and pen. I imagine it being instructive, fascinating, and loads of fun to have students take turns sharing and performing these modes of reasoning, whether by drawing pictures on the board or acting out the gestures.