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'Don't Make Me Do This!' The Equations Screamed

Susan Notes:

With all the ugly numbers surrounding teachers and children--test scores, value added, and so on--it's nice to see complicated-looking equations produce something to make us smile.

Actually, this is trivial, but mathematics gets such a bad rap these days, it seems only fair to lighten things up. And a smile is worth a thousand words.

Reader Comment: There's a long history to the interaction between math & art. A couple of other nice examples:

The kindergarten exhibit is fascinating and rather mind-boggling.


There are many others on the web; in fact, there's even a journal devoted to this, the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.

Ohanian: I tried to access "Modeling with poetry in an introductory college algebra course and beyond," but the publisher was charging $120 to see the article--but I found it here, provided by the authors, who are at the University of Connecticut.
[Now you see why it takes me so long to do this website. Not only do I read comments people make online about articles, I track down things they didn't even mention. But it just seems to me that if I'm going to mention a journal called Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, I should take a look at what they do. It keeps life interesting.

Reader: For a great documentary about artists & scientists working on folding problems (e.g., DNA folding), I highly recommend "Between the Folds." Eric Joisel is one of the artists.

Mr. Krulwich:
FWIW, re: your comment "You can torture numbers into very unmathematical contortions," you shouldn't confuse numbers & literals (e.g., variables, unknowns). Literals are essential to the expressions, equations & inequalities above, and the idea that one could represent an unknown or varying quantity w/ a symbol was a very important development in the history of mathematics. And I'm a bit frustrated by your suggestion that these are somehow "unmathematical contortions," which feeds into the anti-math sentiment held by so many (yes, I know, you're simultaneously giving examples of humor & beauty w/ a mathematical component, but I'd encourage you to do that w/out also feeding into people's anti-math beliefs).

by Robert Krulwich


Normally, this kind of thing is done with a pen or a pencil or a crayon, not with a graphing calculator. Numbers like to multiply, divide and subtract. They don't want to be words or pictures. That's not their job.

But if you've never been good at math, and you love to draw, here's a little revenge exercise. You can torture numbers into very unmathematical contortions ΓΆ€” contortions that will make you smile. . . .

For the rest of the article--and the mathematical demonstrations--go here.

— Robert Krulwich



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