Design of Virtual Reality Modules for Multivariable Calculus and an Examination of Student Noticing within Them

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Steven Jones recently published an article titled “Design of virtual reality modules for multivariable calculus and an examination of student noticing within them.” in the Research in Mathematics Education. Steven has answered a few questions about this article below: 

Who were your co-authors on this article?

Nicholas Long and Jeremy Becnel at Stephen F Austin State University

Who would you say is the target audience for this article?

Undergraduate mathematics education researchers, undergraduate mathematics instructors, and mathematics education researchers on virtual reality.

What is the big problem you hoped to address with this article?

Multivariable calculus presents specific issues of visualizing 3-dimensional (and higher) mathematical objects. Traditional media of books and chalkboards are limited in being inherently 2-dimensional. This paper examined the design and usage of virtual reality modules for multivariable calculus that can create immersive 3-dimensional experiences for students.

The abstract describes some of the key ideas in the article:

Virtual reality (VR) research in mathematics education has centered largely on geometry content. This paper contributes by describing VR modules developed for another area that heavily involves 3-dimensional objects: multivariable calculus. This paper also contributes by describing an empirical study on students’ experiences inside the VR modules through student(conceptual) noticing. One finding was that colorful objects had moderate associated conceptual noticing, but that accompanying animation drastically improved the conceptual noticing. Symbolic and textual elements were conceptually noticed much less. While narration was meant to guide the students’ noticing, it often did not produce the conceptual noticing intended, though animation again was a key factor. The conceptual noticing was also found to be connected to the students’ emerging understandings of the mathematical ideas discussed in the modules. We end by discussing implications for (a) designing VR modules generally, and for (b) learning specific mathematical content within VR.