Math Inspires Art Inspires Math . . .

First images of my latest project . .

My Spring Creativity Has Sparked!

After nearly a year of creative hiatus, I am excited to share the first images of my new project.

Since last August I have been focusing on improving my craft as a middle and high school Algebra teacher. I am inspired by my students to create a new series of prints weaving together math, art, and history.

The images above are illustrations of the Greek method for approximating the circumference of a circle by inscribing a series of polygons with ever increasing number of sides. The more sides a polygon has, the closer its perimeter is to the circumference of the circle. Ancient Greek mathematicians worked on calculating perimeters of polygons with more and more sides in an attempt to arrive at a definitive whole number ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (or pi.)

The top image above is a circumscribed and an inscribed polygon (representing upper and lower bounds for calculating pi.) The lower image is an inscribed triangle and hexagon (a nod to Eudoxus’ “method of exhaustion.”)

These two mini prints are just me getting my feet wet–I’m also working on a larger print that I’ll share more about later . . .


Gathering STEAM for Geometry

The Circumcenter and Incenter of a Scalene Triangle, a watercolor study

I get to teach my kids Geometry this summer, and yesterday we did circumcenter, incenter, centroid, and orthocenter constructions. I’ve never done those before, and I was captivated by the beauty of the constructions. I decided to turn a few into watercolors. It was a lot of fun. Here’s another:

Acute Triangle Centers watercolor study

In this one I also constructed the orthocenter and the centroid, athought it’s hard to see (they’re pretty close to each other.) Highlighting the construction marks makes it clear that the circumcenter is constructed from the perpendicular bisectors of the lines. It’s not as easy to see that the incenter is constructed from the angle bisectors–I’d love to find a way to show that. This is my favorite way to integrate art and math–using art and design to illustrate mathematical concepts. In many cases a picture is worth a thousand words.

A friend of mine sent me an article about STEAM–the education movement to integrate the arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classrooms. I think this is hugely important, although I think it has to go beyond just setting up more discovery learning opportunities. I also think teachers need to realize that engaging in art can be really scary for some kids (just as scary as math is for others!) I advise going slowly. And primary to the whole equation is the relationship between the teacher and her students. When that’s in a good place, you can accomplish just about anything!