Mathlets Illustrate Mathematical Concepts

Mathematics (Course 18)
Haynes Miller
Digital Innovations & Tools
Simulations & Visualizations

In this video, Prof Haynes Miller describes the dilemma of explaining a concept using a specific example but where the general principal may be missed, versus using a general example only to have students experience difficulty extrapolating to a specific case. The motivation for creating Mathlets came from Prof Miller’s frustration with this dilemma and with the limitations of chalk and blackboard.

With assistance from the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education and subsequent support from the Office of Digital Learning, Miller and colleagues in the Math Department created Mathlets, a suite of carefully designed highly interactive Javascript applets that allow students to adjust parameters via sliders to observe how a function changes according to varying inputs.  Runnable under any browser, these apps illustrate mathematical concepts and allow students to visualize how changing variables affects systems. 

These learning tools have been seamlessly integrated into online versions of MIT's basic mathematics courses, and are used in this format both residentially and as MOOCS under MITx.

Mathlets are freely available. For more information, for access to the Mathlets collection and suggested activities and training in their use, please visit