A Math Inspiration named Vi Hart

I came across this article in the Science section of the NY Times about a young woman who see the world - almost the entire world - through mathematical eyes. She's almost hard to describe (so thank goodness for the writer of the article, Kenneth Chang). Read the article and then, I urge you, grab a kid and go check out Vi's blog with its great and fun videos about music, Harry Potter, balloon twisting, a mathematical food index and doodling in math class.

From the article:

She calls herself a full-time recreational mathemusician, an off-the-beaten-path choice with seemingly limited prospects. And for most of the two years since she graduated from Stony Brook University, life as a recreational mathemusician has indeed been a meager niche pursuit.

Then, in November, she posted on YouTube a video about doodling in math class, which married a distaste for the way math is taught in school with an exuberant exploration of math as art .

The rapid-fire narration begins, “O.K., let’s say you’re me and you’re in math class, you’re supposed to be learning about exponential functions, but you’re having trouble caring about exponential functions because unfortunately your math class is probably not terribly engaging.”

The video never shows her face, just her hands doodling in a notebook. She talks about binary trees, Hercules cutting off the heads of a mythical hydra (each severed neck grows two new heads, which is the essence of a binary tree), and a fractal pattern known as Sierpinski’s Triangle.

She did another about drawing stars (really about geometry and polygons). Then another about doodling snakes (which segues into graph theory, “a subject too interesting to be included in most grade-school curricula,” she says). And another about prime numbers. (“Remember, we use prime numbers to talk to aliens. I’m not making this up.”)


Sahila said…
thank goodness someone else makes the connection between math and art and music, that you can learn it by doing it in every day life because its absolutely everywhere around us, and that you posted it here on the blog, Melissa...
Josh Hayes said…
Thanks for these links, Mel. I'm always looking for ways to engage my students - one can only calculate tile borders for strangely-shaped swimming pools so many times.
maureen said…
NPR had a story about a children's book about prime factoring called You Can Count On Monsters.

What Schwartz does is draw monsters to represent different prime and composite numbers.

A composite number is one that can be broken down into smaller parts. .... For this kind of number, Schwartz draws a monster that can be broken up into simpler monsters....When it comes to prime numbers — like 5 or 7 or 11 — he draws monsters that can't be broken up.
And if you're looking for some local folks trying to make math more fun, you can also check out mathforlove.com.
peonypower said…
I saw this awhile back from a link a math teacher friend sent. If you like that - check out how math and crochet came together to explain some very challenging math concepts. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/margaret_wertheim_crochets_the_coral_reef.html
Currently working with a physics teacher to introduce curved space through fiber art to students.

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