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High School Students Explore Abstract Geometry at Annual Math Symposium

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pictured is Professor Matthew Pascal, Ph.D., working with high school students at Point Park's third annual Math Symposium. | Photo by Mary Cvetan
Professor Matthew Pascal, Ph.D., teaches high school attendees to draw large-scale versions of conic sections.

High school students experienced a fun mix of geometrical exploration and team problem-solving activities at Point Park's Annual Mathematics Symposium on April 4.

In the morning, students went on a scavenger hunt, taking pictures of buildings representing abstract geometric shapes — like golden ratio, tangent line, helix and torus — that were within two blocks of the Point Park campus in Downtown Pittsburgh.

For the afternoon activity on conic sections, students were given alternative definitions for four known shapes: circle, ellipse, parabola and hyperbola. They were then asked to draw large-scale versions of these shapes, estimating the area of a region in the overlapping sections.

Sophomore Jerry Meng attended the event because he plans to pursue a career in computer science. “Math is the basis of computer science,” said Meng, who studies AP Calculus at Mt. Lebanon High School. “This event is a different approach from the classroom. It’s more interactive than just solving problems on paper.”

Pictured is a high school student on a scavenger hunt at the 2014 Math Symposium. | Photo submitted by Matt Pascal
Check out a PDF of student group seven's presentation from the
geometrical scavenger hunt.

More than 50 students from 10 high schools attended the symposium, hosted by Matthew Pascal, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics and Darlene Marnich, Ph.D., professor and chair of the education department.

Participating school districts included Montour, Shaler, Thomas Jefferson, Penn-Trafford, Trinity, Hampton, Mt. Lebanon, Avonworth, Rochester and Moon.

Reis Zandier, who describes math as her favorite subject, travelled from Thomas Jefferson High School because she was looking for more opportunities to broaden her math skills. Currently enrolled in Algebra II, she is considering a career in engineering, math or science education.

“I’m always impressed by the creativity of the symposium attendees. These high school students were excited about mathematics and it came out in their ideas. They teach us as much as we teach them,” remarked Pascal.

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