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Acting out the Gradient

Keywords: Gradient, Vector Field, Kinesthetic


Highlights of the activity

  1. This kinesthetic activity is designed to introduce students to the geometric concept of gradient.
  2. Students are asked to point in the direction of the gradient based on where they are on an imaginary elliptical hill with its peak at some reference point in the classroom.
  3. The whole class discussion focuses on the localness of the definition of the gradient and on the dimensionality of the gradient.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

Oftentimes, students are not correctly interpreting situations geometrically when it seems they are. This activity is designed to test a class' ability to physically represent the gradient for a function $f(x,y)$ that represents an elliptical hill. The instructor will also have the opportunity to clarify the proper gradient direction for students that are pointing incorrectly.


Instructor's Guide

Classroom Video

Authors: Corinne Manogue, Tevian Dray, & Elizabeth Gire
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