Monday, February 24, 2020

Counting syllables, considering snowflakes

     From Larry Lesser, a professor at The University of Texas at El Paso (a researcher in math education) and a poet and songwriter and friend, today's poem offers a thoughtful reflection on the properties of a snowflake--and the fragility of thought and weather patterns.  But first (and also from Lesser), here's a clever "2019" stanza (in which each line has the number of syllables of the corresponding digit in that year):


                    sometimes the strongest thing we can say.

       SNOWFLAKE     by Lawrence Mark Lesser

        Some say
        ‘‘no two alike’’,
        others say
        ‘‘not too alike’’.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Which order is best -- or should I try them all?

This posting celebrates a new poetry collection -- 
Ringing the Changes by Stephanie Strickland 
(Counterpath, 2020).
This new collection starts with an idea from bell-ringing.  Some city towers have marvelous-sounding bells -- and sometimes these bells ring wonderful concerts for nearby inhabitants.  One of the traditional bell-ringing activities is called "ringing the changes" in which a collection of n bells are rung, in sequence, in all of the possible n-factorial bell-orders.  (Here, at Strickland's website, are some links to information about the art of bell-ringing.)

BUT, what if the goal were not to ring bells in sequence 
but to generate (for a reader) sequences of words (thoughtful poetic phrases)?
This sort of art is what Strickland brings to us in Ringing the Changes.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Those trains in word problems -- who rides them?

    A Problem in a Math Book     by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

     I remember a problem in a math book
     about a train that leaves from place A and another train
     that leaves from place B. When will they meet?
     And no one ever asked what happens when they meet:
     will they stop or pass each other by, or maybe collide?
     And none of the problems was about a man who leaves from place A
     and a woman who leaves from place B. When will they meet, 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

"Binary Heart" -- linking love and mathematics

      From the xkcd webcomic by Randall Munroe -- and also shown on the cover of Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics, we have this reminder of upcoming Valentine's Day.
"Binary Heart" by Randall Munroe,
     Munroe's clever drawings "of romance, sarcasm, math, and language" have appeared also in previous postings in this blog (here's a link) and his website is fun to visit.
     The anthology, Strange Attractors; Poems of Love and Mathematics-- edited by Sarah Glaz and me -- was published in 2008 by AK Peters and contains more than 150 poems of math and love (including another -- "Useless" -- by Munroe.)  More about Munroe is available here.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Valentine's Day -- a time for Love and Mathematics

     Perhaps you are looking for a mathy Valentine
or a Valentine for a mathy person . . . or both.  

and offers lots of math-poetic possibilities.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Welcome DIVERSITY in mathematics

     As February on the calendar brings BLACK HISTORY month and March brings WOMEN'S HISTORY month, I invite you to explore the contributions of diverse groups to mathematics.  In this blog, I celebrate links between a rainbow of math-people and poetry -- for example, in this posting, "Mathematicians are not just white dudes, (which includes links to math-poetry by Benjamin Banneker and Scott Williams). 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Another prize-winning poem

     It was not until after my posting yesterday that I got permission from the third of the winners in the AMS 2020 student poetry contest to post his work.  Here is "The Number Won" by Austen Mazenko.   (And here is a link to a YouTube video of the January 18 event in which each of the winning poets reads their winning poem.)
Austen is a high school senior from Greenwood Village, CO. He loves words, numbers, and their patterns--and looks forward to pursuing mathematics in college next year.
THANK YOU to the American Mathematical Society for encouraging math-poetry!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Prize-winning math poems -- 2020 AMS contest

In 2020, for the second year in a row, the American Mathematical Society has held a math-poetry contest for students.  (Contest information is available here.)  The three winning poems in the 2020 AMS Math Poetry Contest are:

    "Outlier," by Sabrina Little, Mackintosh Academy, Boulder
    "The Number Won," by Austen Mazenko, Cherry Creek High School
    "x² + y² = 1(ife)," by Chenyu Lin, Colorado Christian University

From Chenyu (aka "Emily") and Sabrina I have received permission to present their poems here:

Lin's university studies include a major in Nursing. Her future plans include graduate study and either nursing education practice in under-developed communities or research in patient care.

Sabrina is a thirteen-year-old from Louisville, CO. Her hobbies include drawing, painting, and martial arts.

Further information about the contest -- and last year's contest also -- is available here.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Learning slowly . . savoring difficulty . . .

      There are geniuses (like Srinivasa Ramanujan) who learn mathematics quickly -- but I am not one of them.  In the following poem I reflect on how I learn . . . 

       Reflection     by JoAnne Growney

       I read and I did not understand.
       Less than a page.
       I read slowly and I did not understand.
       I read and took notes.
       My notes were three times as long as what I had read.

       I rewrote what I read in my own words.
       I reread it and inserted extra clarifying words.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Poetically exploring the the invention of "i"

     Today's posting features work by Punya Mishra, professor and administrator at Arizona State University -- a writer who offers explanations of mathematical concepts in his poems, explanations that can appeal to students!   Mishra's website features several mathy poems and in our email correspondence he said that "The Mathematical i" is his favorite.  Here are are several stanzas:

from  The Mathematical    by Punya Mishra

       The negative numbers were full of dismay
       We have no roots, they were heard to  say
       What, they went on, would be the fruit
       of trying to find our square root?

       Matters seem to be getting out of hand
       Since the negatives have taken a stand,
       On the fact that positives have two roots, while they have none.
       They plead, would it have killed anybody to give us just one?
       The square roots of 4 are + and – 2! As for -4 ?  How unfair,
       He has none! None at all. Do the math gods even care?

Monday, January 27, 2020

Remembering Leonardo da Vinci

     One of the readers featured at the recent 1/17/2020 JMM math-poetry reading was Italian mathematician/poet Rosanna Iembo.  Below, with Iembo's permission, I offer a sample from her poem, "A New Dawn"  -- a poetic narrative in the voice of Leonardo da Vinci, a genius of the Italian Renaissance.  Here are a few lines from this narrative; the entire work is available from the poet (contact information is offered here on her website.).

Referring to Luca Pacioli, the poet's voice of da Vinci says:

       With him
       a common feeling
       that did not end over the years.

       And in the "Proportion"
       which he decided to call
       where I drew
       my polyhedra,
       reached maximum splendor.   

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Focus on FOUR

     Numerous poems by Canadian poet Alice Major connect to science and mathematics, and Major has connected me with Ottawa poet and mechanical engineer Sneha Madhavan-Reese -- who has shared with me not only poetry but also the new-to-me fact that her home city of  Ottawa lies on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation.  Here is Madhavan-Reese's poem, "Four," a thoughtful reminder of the vast versatility of mathematical notions.
       Four     by Sneha Madhavan-Reese

               Is 4 the same 4 for everybody? -- Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions

       My mother draws her four with a right angle;
       my father's is pointed on top.  My daughter's four,
       half the time, is backwards.  Her sister signs,
       tucking a thumb into her raised palm.   

Monday, January 20, 2020

Remember -- and Celebrate

     Today as we remember Martin Luther King, I invite you to visit postings in this blog that celebrate his life -- follow this link.  
And here is a link to
And one more link -- 
          this one to The Mathematician's Project 
("Mathematicians Are Not Just White Dudes.")

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Math-Poetry tomorrow (1/17) -- in Denver at JMM

You are invited:
Sponsored by
and the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

Monday, January 13, 2020

The world of Math Girls . . .

     This past weekend my oldest granddaughter turned sixteen -- and I intensely want every career door to be open to her and to my other granddaughters (and my grandson).  The times are changing, new doors are opening for girls and women,  Still, these syllable-square thoughts are on my mind this morning.  

     Math Girls     

          A math girl must be       
          smarter than the rest –-
          yet must be modest
          and never claiming.
          Math-World is not fair.

And here are more of my mathy-perhaps-poetic thoughts.

     When you’re a math girl you may be the only girl in the room.
          A math girl must be three times as good to be equal.   

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Browse Math-Poetry Links . . .

     Today I invite you to browse -- to spend a moment reading titles, clicking on a title that intrigues you.   ENJOY!