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Exploring the Brachistochrone Problem

L. Haws
T. Kiser
Journal / Anthology

American Mathematical Monthly
Year: 1995
Volume: 102
Issue: 4
Page range: 328-336

In the light of the attention given to a national crisis in mathematics education, concerned mathematics instructors are always looking for innovative ways to present and reinforce ideas. For a generation that grew up with fast paced MTV and special effects movies like Star Wars, the classroom may appear to be a fairly dull environment with uncompromising standards. Computer technology can help educators compete for students' attention and at the same time enhance the learning process by 1) bringing an added dimension--visualization--to the presentation of mathematical concepts, 2) giving students greater flexibility to explore and discover ideas on their own, 3) making more advanced topics accessible to a wider range of classes. These learning aspects will be discussed in the context of some Mathematica packages for exploring the classic Brachistochrone problem and interesting variations.