Monday, July 21, 2008

Mathematics and Design

Dr. Steve Kokoska (right), a professor in the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, uses computer software like LaTeX and Mathematica to help visualize complex mathematical data. He presented the importance of strong visualization tools at the 2008 Summer Academy for the Advancement of College Teaching held at Bloomsburg University in July.

Graphic Designers have to be very careful in laying out publications that involve mathematical symbols and algorithms. Many fonts do not have appropriate characters for specific mathematical symbols. To a mathematician, using an inappropriate symbol is like miss-spelling a name. Beyond being an annoyance using the wrong symbol can impede understanding and may even convey incorrect information. LaTeX is a word processing program that provides exactly the right symbols for any mathematical publication requiring clear and accurate information.

Some mathematical algorithms are so complex that special software is used to represent the data visually so that it can be more easily understood. Mathematica is the name of a software package developed by Steven Wolfram that is the industry standard for creating visual charts, graphs, and images of mathematical data (above left). Dr. Kokoska showed how this powerful program is a tremendous help to mathematicians in helping others visualize their data.

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