The newly renovated Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC is a perfect place to start off 2016 by seeing the exhibit Wonder. The exhibit features nine artists’ installations that give the visitor a sense of wonder. I absolutely loved walking through the beautifully restored building to observe thoughtful pieces created with care and precision. Through the exhibit I kept rerunning the Project Zero Thinking Routine I see… I think… I wonder….. 

Through the various rooms there are quotations about wonder. One that I found thought provoking “It is not understanding that destroys wonder, it is familiarity”  John Stuart Mill, 1865.

The symmetry in Jennifer Angus’s installation of unaltered insects was fascinating, playful and made your skin crawl a little while taking in the details and features of the insects.

The Gabriel Dawe installation of Plexus A1 is just breath taking. I would love to see if I could do a lesson on vectors and intersecting planes for the color refractions he creates through the use of string. If any of you math educators have ideas on this type of lesson please share 🙂 I will see what I can come up this semester.

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At the risk of being to familiar with the art piece, I played around with Geogebra‘s 3D modeling to construct the basic shape and see of the intersecting thread. Figure 1 is the first model with the lines on the floor perpendicular to the lines on the ceiling. The figures are not to scale.

Figure 1

After looking at the photos again I notice that the lines on the ceiling were more angled. The angles are shown in Figure 2. I am interested to know how the Dawe planned the strings line of the intersection. Also, how can you mathematical maximize the intersection string line? When thinking of this from color theory point of view, you can also look at each intersection points of the individuals lines as color mixtures.

Figure 2

I wonder how the tightness of the string effects the intersection of the planes, also how to describe the planes mathematically? In a way it reminds me of the mathematical models that May Ray used in his Human Equations exhibit at the Philips Collection last spring.

If you have an idea or insight on this installation please share. It definitely brings out a lot of wonder even as I become more familiar with the problem.

“That’s so cool!!”

When I was visiting friends in NYC for Halloween weekend I made a trip to the Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath. I went with two former colleagues, a physics teacher and history teacher. We began our visit to the interactive museum on the floor zero, ground floor. There is a stool  inside a circle of strings attached to the ceiling. Once you sit down you spin the stool to activate the strings creating a hyperbolid around you.

Then onto the bikes!Inspired first by G. B. Robison in 1960 who came up with the flat tire bike. Macalester College’s Math professor Stan Wagon made a flat tire tricycle to ride on a straight track with a catenaries. MoMath has a similar type of circular track with two sizes of tricycles. Of course I had to try! It is amazingly smooth ride with three different sized tires. Wolfram has a simulator of the different types of tires and planes to use.

Amanda Riske riding the square tire tricycle

We played video game that would graph your velocity and acceleration on the running track. On floor -1 we were greeted by a wall of magnetic tangrams. We made designs and completed Escher like tessellations. There were logic puzzles, an interactive light board to walk on, and spinning tops to sit on. All of the exhibits were not so much about the history of math but the play in math. Two hours flew by! I had a wonderful time, and loved hearing other people in the museum exclaiming “That’s so cool?” If you are in NYC or planning a visit soon, I highly recommend stopping at MoMath.

Function Art

Last week I had the privilege of presenting and attending the Project Zero conference in Amsterdam. The sessions were inspiring and I am looking forward to putting these ideas into practice. I attended the session at the COBRA museum and my group was guided by Claire Brown from the Thinking Museum in Amsterdam. We looked slowly at a painting using a variety of thinking routines to take in a painting rather than spending the average 15-30 seconds. We spent 30-45 minutes describing colors and hues then dissecting shapes, figures, perspectives and themes. Spending this time discussing and methodically going through seemingly simple aspects of the artwork we all came away with a deeper understanding of the artwork and appreciation for the artist’s process.

View finder
Partners: one describing the artwork and the other sketching.

One idea that came from the session was from an activity we started out doing. We were paired up each group given a view finder and a clip board. One person used the viewfinder and faced the painting, the other faced the opposite direction with the clip board. The partner looking at the painting had 10 minutes to describe the painting and his/her partner would have to draw. Both jobs were equally difficult, as we had to be very precise in describing the lines, and shapes in our view finder.

I want to modify this activity for my students to describe an artwork while we are working on functions.

Instructions for Function Art:

  1. Pair students up
  2. One student has a rectangular view finder with a grid or coordinates marked out.
  3. The student that sketches will have gridded paper with the similar coordinate plane.
  4. The student describing the artwork will have to use functions to describe the lines and brush strokes in the painting. Students should be specific on the functions’ characteristics and placement.
  5. Give the students 10-15 minutes on the task and have them switch.

Now I have to pick a painting that uses a variety of functions….. any suggestions?