Math Websites: a Rant

I don’t usually rant about things, and I don’t usually show you pages that I haven’t written — or at least I’ve written the “after” site when I show you a “before” site. I don’t normally just hold some total stranger’s site up to ridicule.

Today, though, I’m filled with frustration. I’m working on the Kennedy Center’s new educational site, and I needed some good math links — things on the Fibonacci series, and on fractals.

These are interesting topics, and they lend themselves to beautiful graphic treatments. They deserve to have good web sites dedicated to them. Math is arguably a beautiful subject. And there are plenty of math sites with great content, including the one above. So why are the math sites so uniformly ugly?

Their ugliness isn’t just a surface thing, either — these sites are built in antique styles that just aren’t nearly as good as what we can do now.

So I’m supposed to be hunting out the best sites for modern classrooms, and instead I have a choice among things like the page at the top of this post. And yes, that is a full screenshot. You have to scroll sideways to see the whole screen.

Why?

Software and websites designed for education are mostly horrible, to tell the truth. The software is always clunky, old-style, inconvenient, and expensive. The websites are… well, things like the example I’m sharing with you.

We may say that we, as a society, value education, but we’re lying. If we did, we’d have websites like the Assassin’s Creed site for the Fibonacci sequence.

I found a couple of sites that approached math in intriguing ways, including Dean Cameron Allen’s handsome site, What the Hell is the Fibonacci Series? (no longer in existence) and a very pretty Environmental Graffiti page on the subject (also no longer in existence), but neither was intended for the classroom. And in fact they can’t be used in the classroom (the former for obvious reasons, the latter because of racy comments), however hard I try to persuade myself that the modern classroom could handle “Get your ass out of my beer” on the smartboard.

If I’m wrong, then I will be most grateful if you’ll share your counterexamples.

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