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Assessing difficulties of mirror reflection activities from a Math festival

Paloma Zubieta  

The Institute of Mathematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) wishes to contribute to increase the mathematical culture in the country. Since 2010, we have participated in several science festivals with a diversity of communication-oriented engagement activities. Using informal settings these activities promote 'awareness', positive attitudes towards Math and help the understanding of some concepts. A reflection is a type of isometry; isometries are space transformations that preserve shapes and distance. Although people look at mirrors all the time, we have observed that they are not aware of the properties of reflection. A sample of 221 people was sorted according to age range and gender. Two trials were developed involving different challenges: one with a pen and a pad (in two dimensions) and another with cubes of different colours (in three dimensions). Our paper will target the assessment of the difficulties that the public faces while presented with reflection. We found that gender and age are variables that play an important role in people awareness of reflection. Performing the activity with two or three dimensions was a key factor for the public to understand or not how challenges could be solved. It seems that certain parameters -distance from the mirror, change of orientation and rotation- further complicate this type of activities. Also, those parameters relate directly with reflection properties. In determining how these parameters promote the appropriation of reflection, we will be able to improve activities linked with this particular concept. It is our intention that the public better experiences mirror reflection.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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