Tag Archives: art and math

A Day Where Math and Art Meet

On Friday, we had a day where math and art met.  I love this sort of thing, when two things that people think of as being radically different come together.

The first thing was a quick trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.  We might have discovered this anyway, but I’m glad that the NPR show Studio 360 ran an awesome little story about it.  You can listen to it here.  I probably won’t explain any of it properly, but basically there is a type of geometry called hyperbolic geometry.  Not long ago, a mathematician/crochet enthusiast realized you could crochet models of hyperbolic space pretty easily, thus exciting mathematicians and creating a new type of crochet at the same time.  One crocheter who got in on this new form happened to be Australian and interested in the environmental issues plaguing coral reefs.  She began the hyperbolic crochet coral project (coral is an example of hyperbolic space in nature) to raise awareness of the ecological issues.

Suffice it to say, it’s an amazing project.

Even though the kids look kind of bored here, I promise you, they were really engaged.  It’s just my cruddy iPhone photos.

But wait…  there’s MORE!  Directly after this, we met up with our co-op to take a math walk as part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The walk was sponsored by The Museum of Mathematics.  They don’t have an actual building yet, but it’ll be exciting when they do in a couple of years.  If only it wasn’t going to be in New York.

Much of the math walk was above the kids’ heads, but not all of it.  We went through the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, exploring geometry and shapes in the sculptures.  Among other things, we calculated how many bricks are in Sol DeWitt’s Four Sided Pyramid and thought about how Lichtenstein used projective geometry to create the illusion in his House.

Next, we went out on the street and thought about the shapes out there, such as the circular manhole cover, the rectangular signs and the cylindrical bus maps.  Here’s BalletBoy with the pentagonal bolt on the fire hydrant.

We ended by standing in the middle of the Mall where we calculated the height of the Washington Monument by having the kids measure the distance to a man standing in the distance when he looked like he was the same height at the monument.  They all had to lay on the ground to get the right perspective on it.  Amazingly, it came out exactly right – 555 feet!

Overall, it was a pretty brilliant day – arty and mathy all at once.  I don’t know about the kids, but I am feeling inspired.  I love homeschool days like this when I get schooled.