Dimmel receives grant to study students’ perceptions of geometric diagrams in virtual reality environments

Justin Dimmel, assistant professor of mathematics education and instructional technology at the University of Maine, has been awarded nearly $50,000 by the Spencer Foundation to investigate students’ perceptions of geometric diagrams when using immersive spatial displays such as virtual reality.

Until recently, Dimmel says students typically would encounter geometry diagrams as small images displayed on a two-dimensional surface, such as a textbook page. The advent of virtual reality and similar technologies in recent years has transformed how educators and students are able to learn about these diagrams, allowing them to be observed at a much larger scale and in additional dimensions, he says.

In a three-year study, Dimmel will examine how the scale and dimension afforded by virtual reality affects students’ perceptions of geometry diagrams. He plans to interview participants and collect their experiences after completing a series of mathematical tasks with diagrams under different scale and dimension conditions in a virtual reality environment. The project will get underway later this year and conclude in 2022.

Dimmel is founder and director of the Immersive Mathematics in Rendered Environments (IMRE) Laboratory within the College of Education and Human Development. The IMRE lab investigates how virtual and augmented reality can transform STEM education. The lab developed HandWaver, an open-source, gesture-based virtual environment where people can use their hands to manipulate mathematical figures and objects.

The Spencer Foundation Small Research Grants program is competitive. The Chicago-based foundation’s goals include investing in transformative education, improving educational practice, and making education research more accessible to the public.

Contact: Casey Kelly, 207.581.3751