# IntMath Newsletter - Drawing graphs, fear of math tests

By Murray Bourne, 11 Apr 2009

In this Newsletter:

1. Math Tip - Drawing graphs

2. Easter and Passover

3. Latest IntMath Poll - The biggest fear is Math tests

4. From the Math Blog

5. Final Thought - How we see things

## 1. Math Tip - Drawing graphs

Many readers have requested an article on **curve sketching**. For example, Nuaja wrote:

"How do I know how the graph should look like: e.g. y^2=x-2?"

I wrote a special article addressing this issue. You will learn how to draw parabolas in different positions on the x-y plane and in different orientations.

You can find the article here: How to draw y^2 = x - 2.

## 2. Easter and Passover

Around this time of the year, people celebrate Easter or Passover all over the world. These are movable feasts and their date depends on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

There has been a lot of controversy over the years as to the correct date for these festivals, since the equinox does not always fall on 21st March. Also, some religious scholars prefer to base their date for the full moon on observations, rather than predictions. The outcome for this year is Easter Sunday is celebrated on April 12th by "Western" churches and on April 19th by "Eastern" churches, while Passover is celebrated during the week 8 to 15 April.

During the centuries, a lot of mathematics was developed to solve these issues since it was important for those in power (kings and priests) to be able to predict events accurately. For example, analytical geometry provided good mathematical models for the movement of heavenly bodies in elliptical orbits, and calculus helped scientists to be much more accurate when predicting movements of the Earth, moon and sun.

Never cared about those pesky 4th decimal places? The length of one year in the Hebrew calendar is 365.2468 days while in the Gregorian calendar (the one used throughout the Western world) it's 365.2425 days. Over hundreds of years, this makes quite a difference to where the dates of Easter and Passover fall.

For those who celebrate Easter and Passover, here's wishing you a happy festival.

## 3. Latest IntMath Poll - The biggest fear is Math tests

The most common phobias reported by adults include fear of spiders, social situations, flying, small spaces, heights, and death.

However, the latest IntMath Poll results add an extra phobia to the list:

37% Math tests

27% Spiders

24% Heights

13% Crowded places

Total votes: 1,300

So visitors to Interactive Mathematics are more afraid of math tests than they are of spiders, heights and crowded places. This is quite a sad state of affairs. I will be writing some articles on how to overcome the fear of math tests in future IntMath Newsletters.

The current IntMath Poll asks readers about their **calculator use**. You can vote on any page in Interactive Mathematics.

## 4. Latest from the math blog

1) How to draw y^2 = x - 2?

How do we draw parabolas that are moved around the x-y axes, and rotated?

2) Deepavali date change

Dates for religious holy days can't always be determined in advance.

The next 3 articles are about **free math software**:

3) Free math software downloads

Wanting to use some math software but find itβs too expensive? Here are some free math software downloads to consider.

4) Mathematica Player and arty Demonstrations

The free Mathematica Player allows you to interact with thousands of math objects, including some very artistic ones.

5) GraphSketch.com - free online math grapher

GraphSketch is a free offering that allows the user to sketch graphs of math functions.

## 5. Final Thought - How we see things

Author Anais Nin wrote:

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

This is why 2 people observing the same scene remember different aspects of that scene — our observations and memories are very dependent on our culture, our backgrounds and what we already know. This is hugely important when it comes to mathematics. Let's consider **math homework** as an example.

For the **teacher**, math homework is something that is given to a class so that they practice the skills learned in class that day. The teacher really wants her students to do well and knows (from experience) that repetition of a skill is essential for learning. Sure, it will mean there will be more work for her later when it comes to grading the homework, but such is the lot of a teacher.

For the **student**, math homework is either (depending on the student's situation):

- Something to be dreaded, because he wasn't listening in class and doesn't know how to do it; OR
- Something that is easy, but because of part-time work commitments, it does not get done; OR
- A pleasurable activity since math is something they love; OR
- Something she has no intention of doing, since she's going to a party that night

For the **parent**, math homework may be (depending on the parent's situation):

- Something to nag their son about; OR
- Something to fear because they know their daughter is going to ask them about it and they've forgotten everything; OR
- A pleasurable activity to share with their child; OR
- Something they don't believe in since they think all school activities should be done at school

How do *you* see math homework? What difference will that view make to your success in math?

And to finish this newsletter, here's another notable quote from Anais Nin:

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

Until next time, enjoy whatever you learn.

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