Using 3D Printing for Math Manipulatives

In a couple of earlier posts (here and here), I wrote about how my school has acquired a couple of MakerBot Replicator2 3D printers. The students are getting very excited about using them. One of my Honors Precalculus students even designed and printed a “Menurkey” – a combination Menorah and turkey – because Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide this year. Here’s a picture of the small prototype she printed first:

Menurkey

Thingiverse recently had a competition for the best math manipulative, and there were some really useful entries. I especially liked a conic section one designed by Karl Crosby. We have purchased some different colored plastic, so I went with green this time:

Conics

Next, I printed it out in two stages, so I could use two different colors of plastic. It turned out really well!

Conics1 Conics2

These are great for showing students how slicing a cone at various angles results in a circle, an ellipse, a parabola, or half a hyperbola. Until now, all the math teachers in my department shared a wooden one that was very expensive. Now I can print out a classroom set for almost nothing.