Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Math-Poetry -- when distinct worlds collide . . .

     Carol Dorf has been a long-time leader in math poetry projects.  A now-retired secondary school math teacher from California, Carol is the poetry editor of  the online journal Talking Writing -- an online journal that has included a variety of mathy poems.   Recently, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, Carol gave a presentation entitled "Poetry of Mathematical Definitions" -- the abstract for this talk begins with this provocative sentence:

Mathematical poetry begins when worlds we consider distinct collide.

Carol's poetry-editorship for Talking Writing has led to many math-related poems being published therein.  Here is a link to those poems and a bit of other math-related content;  the following list includes names of writers whose work has been included there:  Robin Chapman,    Marion Deutsche Cohen,    Allison Hedge Coke,    Mary Cresswell,    Catherine Daly,    Carol Dorf,    Iris Jamahl Dunkle,    Sarah Glaz,    JoAnne Growney,    Athena Kildegaard,    Larry Lesser,      Elizabeth Langosy , Marco Maisto,    Alice Major,    Katie Manning,    Daniel May,    David Morimoto,    Giavanna Munafo,    Karen Ohlson,    Eveline Pye,    Stephanie Strickland,    Amy Uyematsu,    Sue Brannan Walker,    and Jean Wolff.  Some of the poets have been featured more than once and to find all work by a particular author, SEARCH is recommended.

And here, from Talking Writing,  is one of Carol Dorf's fascinating poems:

       Lost Information     by Carol Dorf

       Visualize groups: there’s the babysitting co-op,
       with slips of scrip the children color during
       quarterly potlucks; and more than enough churches
       each with study evenings, and fundraising committees;    

Monday, May 16, 2022

Bridges Math-Arts Conference 2022

      Founded by Reza Sarhangi (1952-2016) in 1998, the BRIDGES organization has had annual conferences and is an ongoing supporter of links between mathematics and the various arts.  This year's conference is scheduled for August 1-5, 2022 at Aalto University in Helsinki and Espoo, Finland.

Bridges Conference Information is available at this link.

Browsing and searching on the BRIDGES website can lead to a huge variety of math-arts connections -- including invited and contributed paper presentations, an exhibition of mathematical art, workshops, films, a poetry reading, music and theater -- including both descriptive and performance events.  Here is a link to a list of links to lots of exhibitions.   And this link leads to the results of a search in the Archive of BRIDGES papers that include the term "Poetry" in the title.

Adding to what the BRIDGES site includes is this rich source of math-poetry material at the University of Connecticut website of mathmatician-poet Sarah Glaz -- an active organizer of poetry at BRIDGES conferences.

               Poetry and
               build BRIDGES to

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Poem of the Census Enumerator

          When I look at
          the person I
          meet on the street,
          what do I see?

One of the powerful and relevant poems that has come into my view recently is "Counting" by Margarita Engle.  Engle is the author of many children's books and, from June 2017 to June 2019, she served as the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate.  I offer this poem below -- and invite you to ponder the discrimination-issues it raises and the COMPLEXITY of counting -- and then to follow the links to explore more of Engle's work:

       Counting      by Margarita Engle  

                    Harry Franck, from the United States of America - Census Enumerator

       I came to Panama planning to dig
       the Eighth Wonder of the World,
       but I was told that white men
       should never be seen working
       with shovels, so I took a police job,
       and now I've been transferred
       to the census.

       I roam the jungle, counting laborers
       who live in shanties and those who live
       on the run, fugitives who are too angry
       to keep working for silver in a system
       where they know that others
       earn gold.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Inspirational/Poetic Quotes about Mathematics

     The poetic quotes below sample what is found in an article by Natasha Irshad, "Inspirational quotes about the importance of Mathematics" -- found in ACADEMIA, an educational magazine from Pakistan.

     Mathematics is
     a place where you can
     do things which you can't
     do in the real world.

           -- Marcus du Sautoy

          Pure mathematics
          is the poetry of
          logical ideas.

                -- Albert Einstein

               Sometimes the questions
               are complicated,
               and the answers
               are simple.

                     -- Dr. Seuss


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Build a Poem using a Fano Plane

     Many of the mathematical poetic forms introduced in this blog are structures that can be used to build a poet's fragmented thoughts into complete and poetic form.  The Fib, for example, gives a syllable structure to help a writer shape an idea. Syllable-squares are another simple structure and -- familiar also but much more complex -- the fourteen-line Sonnet in iambic pentameter.

     Math Professor Dan May of South Dakota often works with an interesting and more complex structure called the Fano Plane -- a finite projective plane of order 2 -- and composed of 7 vertices with 7 connecting lines, each joining three vertices: 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

"A Mother's Math is Never Done"

     In just a few days (on May 8) we will celebrate Mother's Day 2022 in the US.  And I am thinking back to the July 2018 issue the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics  -- a special issue with the theme Mathematics and Motherhood.   One of the poems presented in that issue is "A Mother's Math is Never Done,"  a sestina by JHM Editor, Gizem Karaali -- and I offer its initial stanza below, followed by a link to the complete poem.

A Mother's Math is Never Done    by Gizem Karaali

Beyond dark clouds is the blue sky.
The day will come to do your math,
Once you put away the clutter.
Someday again you know you'll fly.
Now's not the journey's end, just a detour on the path.
Only today, hold your breath, for you are a mother.     

 Go here for the rest of this sestina.  Enjoy especially the final stanza!!

The entire "Table of Contents" for Mathematics and Motherhood is available at this link.   

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Poem-in-your-Pocket Day -- April 29, 2022

      The following stanza by  award-winning children's author,  Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, (1914-2000), has led to an annual celebration in US schools of "Poem-in-your-Pocket" Day:

          Keep a poem in your pocket 
          and a picture in your head     
          and you'll never feel lonely
          at night when you're in bed.  

     The poetry that is in my my pocket is the opening stanza of "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963).   As this previous posting indicates, Roethke's poem has not always been a favorite, but now -- as I stumble toward the later years of my life -- I cherish what it awakens in me and its first stanza (offered below) belongs in my pocket!

         I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
         I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
         I learn by going where I have to go.

  Roethke's entire poem, with comments, is found here in this 2018 blog posting. And this link leads to a response to "The Waking" that I wrote-- entitled "Running."

Monday, April 25, 2022

28 Lines for History's FIRST recorded author

     Earlier this month I attended (virtually) a mathematics conference and focused my attention on sessions that linked math and the arts.  One of these was a math-poetry presentation by Sarah Glaz which celebrated Enhuedanna (early Sumerian author -- 23rd century, BCE) "Enheduanna – Princess, Priestess, Poet and Mathematician" and included this wonderfully descriptive poem by Glaz.

Twenty-Eight Lines for the En-Priestess Enheduanna    by Sarah Glaz    

       In the beginning there is no beginning.
       Eternity’s dark fingers hold a lantern
       casting a glow
       over the city-state of Ur,
       where the Sumerian princess,
       high priestess of the Moon God, Nanna,
       daughter of King Sargon,  
       stretches the cord
       measuring land and irrigation canals,

Thursday, April 21, 2022

April 22 -- Observe Earth Day

     Along with the vicious Russian attacks in Ukraine, our world today is observing a much longer period of destruction to our planet.  This link leads to "EARTH DAY" poetry in earlier postings in this blog.  And here at this website are some Earth Day poems for students.

Choose with care--
Don't pollute.  
Don't waste. Earth's

are waning.
Please! Help save!

 For a bit of amusement, 25 Earth Day puns are found here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Censorship of math books -- Oh, my!!

                         A Syllable-Square for Math Texts                    

                              If a math text shares
                              truth that is (for some)
                              banning it is not
                              what ought to be done!

A recent story in the The Washington Post (written by Valerie Strauss and Lindsey Bever; headline and link given below) examines criticisms of math texts that offer contemporary issues for mathematical consideration.

Here's a link to the Post story that follows this headline.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Poetry at the Mathematics Conference

      Last weekend, April 6-9, was a virtual national jmm - Joint Mathematics Meetings -- and I attended a number of sessions that explored links between the focused languages of mathematics and poetry.  Presenters that I was privileged to hear included Carol Dorf, Sarah Glaz, Gizem Karaali, and Dan May.  Math guy Douglas Norton of Villanova University organized contributed-paper session on "Mathematics and the Arts" and also hosted a Friday-evening poetry reading -- an event in which much of the action was writing and sharing Fibs (6-line poems with syllable count being the first six Fibonacci numbers).  Here are several samples:

From Doug Norton:                                     From Dan May:

Me?                                                                        Pet
Write?                                                                    me
A Fib?                                                                     Or I
Not a fib.                                                                will bite you.
Put my heart in it.                                                  Nighttime is here, time
Let’s just see what comes bleeding out.                  to burn off all that hay I ate.

From David Reimann:                            From Gizem Karaali

Joint                                                                   one
Math                                                                    golde
Meetings                                                              dragon
Zoom with friends                                                metallic,
poetry alive                                                          majestic creature --
breathing words across many miles . . .               not sure I want to meet one now


Monday, April 11, 2022

War and Resistance -- in Eleven Three-line Stanzas

      Recently I searched work by Ukranian authors at the Poetry International website -- hoping to find poems with mentions of mathematics -- but I did not.  Eventually, though, praise of a poem by UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage led me to "Resistance" (published here in The Guardian) with uses a prime number (11) of stanzas, each with a prime number (3) of lines, to speak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effects.  Here are the opening stanzas:

       Resistance       by Simon Armitage

          It’s war again: a family
             carries its family out of a pranged house
                under a burning thatch.

          The next scene smacks
             of archive newsreel: platforms and trains
                (never again, never again),

          toddlers passed
             over heads and shoulders, lifetimes stowed
                in luggage racks.

          It’s war again: unmistakable smoke
             on the near horizon mistaken
                for thick fog. Fingers crossed.          . . .     

     for the rest of Resistance, follow this link.

     Ukrainian-born Ilya Kaminsky is a very fine poet now living in the US.  Here is a link to one of his poems that describes too many of us, "We Lived Happily During the War."

Monday, April 4, 2022

April Celebrates both Math and Poetry . . .

     April is Math-Stat Awareness Month and here at the American Mathematical Society website are lots of ideas for learning and enjoyment.  April also is National Poetry Month and, at this link, suggests 30 fun ways to observe the occasion.

 Celebrate the ways
that focused language
leads us to new thoughts!

And . . . here are some poetry-with-math links to explore:    a Smithsonian Magazine article by Evelyn Lamb;  an article in Slate Magazine by Stephen Ornes;  a posting by Laura Laing on the Math for Grownups website;  from way back in 2009, an article by Shirley Dent in The Guardian. 

Enjoy all of these AND, when your time permits, browse or SEARCH this blog!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Winning Essays about Math Women

      The Association for Women in Mathematics each year sponsors an Essay Contest in which students (junior high, high school, and college) each interview a math-woman and write about it.  Contest winners for this year's contest have been announced and I invite you to go to this link -- to read well-written words about wonderful and inspiring women.

     One of the wonderful math-women in my life was Laura Church -- my teacher during my junior and senior years at Indiana Joint High School (in Indiana, PA) -- and here is a stanza that remembers her.

           Chalk in hand,
           she tosses her book,
           strides across the room,
           excited by trigonometry,
           excited that we,
           restless in our rows,
           caught some of it.
           Flamboyant, silver,
           fearless woman.

       This stanza is from "The Ones I Best Remember" -- the entire poem is found here.         More "girls and math" poems are at this link -- and the curious reader may browse or use this blog's SEARCH feature to find lots more!

Monday, March 28, 2022

A Poet with a Slide Rule

     In 1966 Life Magazine celebrated Danish scholar Piet Hein (1905-1966) in an article (found here, p. 55...) by Jim Hicks entitled "Piet Hein;  Denmark's Scientist-Poet."  The article begins with a story of Hein's proposal of a superellipse as a design for a city plaza and then goes on to share some of Hein's poetic creations -- short, witty poems that he called "grooks".

     This blog has posted grooks in the past (in May, 2010 and in August, 2017) and here are several more to enjoy.

Grooks by Piet Hein


     Solutions to problems
          are easy to find:
     the problem's a great
     What's truly an art
          is to wring from your mind
     a problem to fit
          a solution.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Celebrate Amalie Emmy Noether

 On this date -- March 23, 1883 -- mathematician Emmy Noether was born:

       Emmy Noether's abstract axiomatic view
       changed the face of algebra.
       She helped us think in simple terms
       that flowered in their generality.  

The stanza above is from "My Dance is Mathematics" -- a poem of mine inspired by this bright and fearless mathematician.

Learn lots more about Noether at this link.
And, as we celebrate Noether, I urge more investigation and celebration of women in mathematics.  This link leads to a variety of sources -- and the blog SEARCH feature can be used for lots more.  For example, here are the results of a search for "math woman".

Monday, March 21, 2022

Happy World Poetry Day, 2022

 In the words of Albert Einstein (1879-1955),

"Pure mathematics is,
in its way,
the poetry of logical ideas."

Tuesday, March 15, 2022


     One of the exciting current events here in the Washington, DC area is the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit  -- a monumental exhibit of 120 3-D printed statues celebrating contemporary women innovators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)and features the most statues of real women ever assembled together.   One of the featured women is Minerva Cordero who "applies her expertise in finite Geometries to computer science and artificial intelligence, and works to increase representation of women in STEM.  

"The best gift to a young girl is the belief that she can do anything she sets her mind to do." "She will persevere! Minerva Cordero is a Puerto Rican mathematician and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research on Finite Geometries has applications to several fields, including computer science and artificial intelligence. She has traveled all over the United States and Europe sharing her research and passion for Mathematics.  (Go HERE for more about Cordero.)  

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Celebrate Pi -- and Poe

     Recently I came across a link I had saved to an article from last June in the Washington Post -- an article that considers Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and the scope of his influence.  Poe's poem "Sonnet -- To Science" was posted in this blog at this link back in October, 2013 but today, as Pi-Day (3.14) approaches, I am thinking of his poem, "The Raven."  Mathematician Mike Keith has written a version of "The Raven" in Pilish, an arrangement of words whose lengths follow the digits of Pi (when the digit 0 occurs, a 10-letter-word is used);  the complete Pilish version is found at this link.   Here are its opening lines:

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716 . . . .

 My own attempts at Pilish are much more modest and today I quote from a posting in March, 2018:

     Hug a tree, I shout -- hungering to defend trees
                    and every creation . . .

     In San Francisco, the Exploratorium Museum -- which reports that it invented Pi Day to honor not only Pi but also to remember Albert Einstein's Birthday -- will celebrate the holiday with programs that feature John Sims, a mathematical artist (and also someone who has been previously noted in this blog).

Monday, March 7, 2022

International Day of the Woman -- 03-08-2022

 Celebrate Math-Women with Poems

Throughout the history of mathematics, women have often been excluded or ignored.  This is changing.  I offer below some links to poems that herald math-women -- for you to enjoy and to share as we celebrate tomorrow  --  "International Day of the Woman." 

Celebrate Philippa Fawcett.          Celebrate Sophie Germain.

Celebrate Grace Murray Hopper.       Celebrate Katherine Johnson.

Celebrate Sophia Kovalevsky.          Celebrate Ada Lovelace.  

Celebrate Florence Nightingale.          Celebrate Emmy Noether.

And, as your time permits, browse this blog -- or SEARCH -- to find more . . .

Friday, March 4, 2022

Poetry of ideas -- an anagram, a palindrome

      Minnestoa math teacher Ben Orlin's website Math with Bad Drawings is a fun place to visit and Orlin often posts on Twitter -- browsing there recently I found this posting: 

Another frequent Twitter poster is UK-based Anthony Etherin -- a poet who likes to discover where he is led by following constraints; here's a sample:
Here are links to previous postings in this blog that cite Ben Orlin and Anthony Etherin.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

World Book Day, celebrate Bright lady . . .

      Tomorrow, March 3, is WORLD BOOK DAY -- and I use the occasion to pull off the shelf one of my favorites, The Mathematical Magpie; stories, essays, rhymes, anecdotes, epigrams -- diversions (rational or irrational) from the infinite domain of MATHEMATICS, published in 1962 (Simon & Schuster, NY) by Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999).

    Here are two limericks offered by Fadiman -- and written by Manitoba professor A. H. Reginald Butler (1874-1944):        

     There was a young lady named Bright,
     Who traveled much faster than light.
          She started one day
          In the relative way
     And returned on the previous night.

     To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,
     "I have learned something new about matter:
               As my speed was so great
               Much increased was my weight,
     Yet I failed to become any fatter."

This link leads to previous postings in this blog that feature Fadiman.

Monday, February 28, 2022

A Picture is worth 1000 words . . .

     Tomorrow, March 1, we begin Women's History Month.  Join in celebration of math people with the Mathematician Poster Project  -- a poster series featuring modern mathematical role models, created by a group of math graduate students and alumni. All files are freely downloadable below, for sharing either online or in print.  The project is new and growing -- in the first six available posters, math-women featured therein include Pamela Harris, Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017), and Julia Robinson (1919-1985).

     Each of the posters contains a few words of wisdom that are, in their way, poetic. Here are words from Pamela Harris:          Mathematical
                                                                    discovery brings me
                                                                    great joy, yet I am
                                                                    far more than the
                                                                    theorems I prove.  

These two links -- Mirzakhani and Robinson -- lead to other postings in this blog that have included these math-women.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Black boys at the blackboard doing math . . .

     Last Wednesday evening the WordWorks-sponsored poetry reading, "Poets vs the Pandemic," brought back to my attention Pennsylvania poet Le Hinton who read from his recent collection, Sing Silence, and also some newer work.  Here is Hinton's very special poem about kids learning math.

     Uses of Cotton (Eraser)      by Le Hinton
      When my brother tells the story,
      he forgets to mention the sock, black
      and worn. Mom darned it in three places;
      Dad used it as an eraser.
      I never leave out the part
      about his teaching
      us numbers. When to add.
      How to subtract.
      He set up a blackboard in the back-
      yard and wrote problems on it. Even invited
      the neighborhood kids. We earned a piece
      of candy for each one we got right.      

Monday, February 21, 2022

Reduce stress in math class -- write a poem

       Recently I have come across a website for the New England Literary Resources Center -- and one of the suggestions offered for managing stress in a math class is by writing poems; here is a link to a sample of stressed students' poems

     My favorite suggestion for inexperienced poets who take pen in hand is to choose a syllable-count structure to follow -- such as a syllable-square or a snowball or a Fib . . .. AND, from the website Pen and the Pad, here are some additional ideas to consider:   How to Write a Mathematical Poem (

And, as I worried, I wrote this Fib:

          Stop . . .
          Think . . .        
          What to say!
          I gather my thoughts
          and hope I can make a poem!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

February -- National Haiku-writing Month

     Whether to satisfy particular constraints when writing a poem is an idea that is very important to poets.  Some think that following strict constraints (such as building 14 lines of iambic pentameter to achieve a sonnet) is a process that leads the mind to discovery of new ideas.  Others think that constraints unnecessarily inhibit poetic ideas.

      Over time, the single-stanza poem called "Haiku" has been held to a variety of different standards.  Often the Haiku was expected to have three lines and seventeen syllables -- in a 5-7-5 pattern.  But this year as we now (in February) celebrate National Haiku Writing Month, relaxation of the syllable constraint is encouraged -- and the challenge of writing one-Haiku-per-day also is encouraged. 

Here, using syllable-counts, is a "no-seven" Haiku (offered on the seventeenth)!

               one two three four five
               six eight nine ten eleven
               twelve, thirteen, fourteen

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Celebrate with a MATHY Valentine

 Celebrate Valentine's Day with mathy verse!

Follow this link to see the variety of examples in previous posts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Seven-line Fibs

 In a previous post (on 2/2/2222), I shared a link to dozens of Fibs;
today I offer a Fib variation -- this time with 7 lines.

     Daughter of a statistics professor, poet A. E. Stallings is no stranger to mathematics.  Here is a link to several dozen of her poems posted by the Poetry Foundation -- and this link leads to a posting of her poem "Sine Qua Non" in this blog.  Recently I discovered Stallings 2012 collection Olives (a sample is available here) and in it, "Four Fibs."   Deviating from the six-line poem that is often called a Fib, Stallings' poems have seven lines -- with syllable-counts of 1,1,2,3,5,8, and 13 syllables: here is a sample.

from   Four Fibs     by A. E. Stallings 

          1.       Did
                   or grapple
                   over the apple?
                   Eavesdropping Adam heard her say
                  To the snake-oil salesman she was not born yesterday. 

Here in the archives of the Cortland Review (where "Four Fibs" first appeared) is more of Stallings' work, including the other three Fibs.

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Poetry of Science

     Poet and teacher Sam Illingworth does much to celebrate the links between poetry and the sciences.  He is the founder of Consilience, an online journal that links poetry and artwork with science.  And he has a blog, The Poetry of Science, in which each week he presents a poem based on a new science idea that he has recently learned.  Here are the opening lines of a poem posted in August, 2021:

from     Artificial Weather    by Sam Illingworth

          Buoyant skies linger overhead,
          bulging at the seams
          with surging intent;
          capricious threats
          that fall indiscriminately
          against the statistical fortitude  
          of our modelled routines.     . . . read more here . . .

Here is a link to earlier mentions of Illingworth's work in this blog.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Words from Martin Luther King Jr.

     During this Black History Month or any month, Martin Luther King Jr is a man to remember and to honor.  His words have appeared in these earlier posts and, below, I offer a quote that is one of my mathy favorites:

             We must accept
             finite disappointment
             but never lose
             infinite hope.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

New issue -- Journal of Humanistic Mathematics

     The online, open-access Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM) publishes new issues twice each year -- and the first issue for 2022 is now available and is rich with math-poetry offerings.  One of the fun items is a folder of Fibs, featuring contributions (with email contact information) from:

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, Gerd Asta Bones, Robin Chapman,
Marian Christie, Marion Deutsche Cohen, Stephen Day,
Carol Dorf, Susan Gerofsky, Sarah Glaz,
David Greenslade, Emily Grosholz, JoAnne Growney,
Kate Jones, Gizem Karaali, Lisa Lajeunesse,
Cindy Lawrence, Larry Lesser, Alice Major,
Kaz Maslanka, Dan May, Bjoern Muetzel,
Mike Naylor, Doug Norton, Eveline Pye,
Jacob Richardson, S. Brackett Robertson,
Stephanie Strickland, Susana Sulic,
Connie Tettenborn, Racheli Yovel.

And the current JHM issue contains five more poems -- thoughtful and thought-provoking: "What's So Great About Non-Orientable Manifolds?" by Michael McCormick, "Wrong Way" by Joseph Chaney, "The Solipsist’s First Paper" by Sabrina Sixta, "Heuristic or Stochastic?" by E Laura Golberg, and "So Long My Friend" by Bryan McNair.

In closing, I offer here a sample from the folder of Fibs, this one written by Gizem Karaali, one of the editors of JHM.

               Where does math come from?
                         Want to
                         Do some math,
                         Dive into the depths
                         Of your mind, climb heights of your soul.

Thank you, Gizem Karaali, for your work in humanizing mathematics!

Monday, January 31, 2022

Math Communicators also are important

A posting early this month featured the noted Indian mathematician Ramanujan (1887-1920) who was mentored by the British mathematician G. H. Hardy (1877-1947).  In addition to his important achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis, Hardy is well-known for his book, A Mathematician's Apology (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1969).  Here are its opening lines:

Hardy's words seem to echo a phrase I heard long ago --  "if you can't do, teach" -- a phrase that belittles teachers and other communicators.  But now, in the 21st century, this attitude seems to be changing  and perhaps it will continue that we give attention to the work of artists and teachers and writers who share mathematical connections.   Math is important -- SHARE it!

A diamond's beauty                               
          depends on reflection                 
                    of outside light.    

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Keep Exploring . . .

     In addition to its published magazine, Scientific American has a large variety of blogs.  One of my favorites was Roots of Unity by mathematician Evelyn Lamb.  The blog -- with several hundred postings -- adds to the also-frequent articles that Lamb has contributed to that magazine,  In her posting, "What T. S. Eliot Told Me about the Chain Rule," she quotes these lines from "Little Gidding" by T. S. Eliot (published in Eliot's 1966 collection, Four Quartets) and discusses the outcomes of difficulty and confusion coupled with curiosity, energy, and persistence -- frequent ingredients of the process of learning new mathematics.

     from Little Gidding     by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

       We shall not cease from exploration
       And the end of all our exploring
       Will be to arrive where we started
       And know the place for the first time.

Read more at Lamb's blog posting, "What T. S. Eliot Told Me about the Chain Rule."

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Celebrating mathematics with song . . .

     Some of the most memorable links between mathematics and the arts are found in song-lyrics.  For example, "That's Mathematics" by retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician   Tom Lehrer (now aged 93):  Here is the opening stanza (the complete lyrics are found at this link):

    Counting sheep
    When you're trying to sleep
    Being fair
    When there's something to share
    Being neat
    When you're folding a sheet
    That's mathematics!             More mathy lyrics (by Lehrer and others) are found here.

     A current math educator offers us lots more lyrics to learn from and enjoy; from Larry Lesser -- a professor at the University of Texas in El Paso -- is a long-time creator of math-music works.  Here's a link to a list.

 This blog also has previously published lots of Lesser's fine work; here's a link.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Eyes on the Prize

     Today, the 3rd Monday in January, we celebrate the birthday of civil rights leader, Rev Martin Luther King, Jr,, (1929-1968) -- and I have been refreshing my memory of his courageous activity by watching episodes of the award-winning television series about civil rights struggles in the US, "Eyes on the Prize."

Here, in King's words (from his 1957 book, Stride Toward Freedom):

       can't fly
       then run, if
       you can't run then walk,
       if you can't walk then crawl, but what-
       ever you do you have to keep moving forward . . .

Download of a pdf of Stride Toward Freedom is available here.
    Previous postings in this blog featuring Martin Luther King may be found here.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

+ plus magazine . . . living mathematics

     One of the very fine sources of interesting and new ideas from mathematics is +plus magazine -- available since 1997 from the University of Cambridge --  at this link.  Way back in 2010 they featured a Fib from this blog (at this link) and they have been generous in their mentions of Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters/CRC Press, 2008), edited by Sarah Glaz and me.  They also have introduced (at this link) a wonderful collection of scientific Haiku (SCIKU  Icon Books, 2014) -- edited by Simon Flynn, written by students at the Camden School for Girls.  Here are two samples from that collection:


               An attractive force
               Between all objects with mass
               Just like you and me.

          Dissolving confusion

               To some, solutions
               Are answers; to chemists they
               Are still all mixed up.

Enjoy exploring this innovative online mathy magazine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Write to learn ... follow constraints ... find poems

     Some people (myself included) take lots of notes during a lecture or other program -- for it seems that the physical activity of placing the words on the page is part of the process of installing the ideas in memory.  For me, also, the creation of a paragraph or a poem depends on the teamwork of hands and brain.

     One of the ways that poets engage themselves in creating new thoughts is by accepting the guidance of formal constraints -- creating the fourteen lines of a sonnet or the nineteen lines of a villanelle with strict patterns of rhythm and rhyme and repetition.  Below I consider the question of what I want for my birthday  --  and use that in my struggle to write a sonnet:

You asked me
      for a birthday gift suggestion . . . 
by JoAnne Growney    

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Mathematics gives our world its shape . . . fractals

     Poet Robin Chapman and Julien Clinton Sprott both were professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when their art-poetry collection  Images of a Complex World -- The Art and Poetry of Chaos first appeared (World Scientific Publishing, 2005) -- and now both are emeritus professors: Chapman in the Department of Communication Studies and Disorders and Sprott in the Department of Physics.  Here is one of the poems from that collection: 

          Bifurcations     by Robin Chapman

           This is the path that pitchforks
           in the yellow wood -- the one
           where you wanted to travel both,
           science and poetry,
           physics and art,
           and so bounced unpredictably back and forth,
           taking each as far as you could.

Notes:  The pitchforking path in the opening lines draws my thoughts to Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken." A bifurcation is, in general, a division of a structure into two parts. But when it happens over and over, things might change from patterned to chaotic . . .  Here is a link to earlier postings in this blog on fractals and chaos; here is a link to previous postings of poems by Robin Chapman.  This link leads to discussion of "bifurcation" at WolframMathWorld.  On page 82 of the art-poetry collection by Chapman and Sprott is this comment about the term:  There are dozens of different types of bifurcations, and they represent an active area of current research.  Below (and appearing on page 83 of the collection) is the following illustration:

In the preface to Images of a Complex World -- The Art and Poetry of Chaos, Sprott describes his process of choosing mathematical patterns and colors that would appeal to the human eye and Chapman offers insight into the inspirations for her poems.

Monday, January 3, 2022

India's National Math Day -- Poetic Quotes

     A recent math holiday that I remembered after it had passed is National Mathematics Day in India -- held on December 22 and celebrating the birth anniversary of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (1870-1920).   (An interesting math-item from India is the claim that the first recorded use of zero occurred there.)

     Ramanujan is celebrated in a poem by Jonathan Holden.  Its opening lines: 

Holden's complete poem is found here in this posting from 2/19/2011.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Year-end Counting -- with Gratitude

     I count --
     and count on --
     mathy poems shared
     here by countless poets. THANK YOU!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Amid uncertainties -- compose a Fib

How many Corona-virus cases will the new year bring?

What to say . . .
I gather my thoughts
and hope I can make a poem.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas is coming . . .

     This morning I did a blog search to see which of my previous posts included the word "Christmas" -- and this link leads to the results.  And, for me as for many, a very familiar favorite (also posted back in December 2015) -- linking Christmas and numbers -- is this:

This Wikipedia link offers some history of this song.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

One-sentence Poems

     Recently I came across the website and, enjoying the items' brevity, I did some browsing -- and term-searching -- looking for mathy poems.  Here are two samples by teacher and poet Jeffrey Park -- originally from Baltimore, now a teacher in Germany.

By Degrees   

She always sleeps with protractor and compass
on the bedside table, never knowing when
a sudden fit of geometry will strike in the night.


Numbers pelt down from an infinite sky, neither irrational nor imaginary,
the angular ones, 4s and 7s, doing maximum damage.

These one-sentence poems -- and another --  by Jeffrey Park are found online here.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Mathematician with the Soul of a Poet

      One of my long-time math-poetry connections has been with math-teacher-artist-writer Sandra DeLozier Coleman (This link leads to her prior appearances in this blog.)  Coleman has had a long-term interest in the Russian mathematician-and-poet Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) and has recently published Mathematician with the Soul of a Poet -- Poems and Plays of Sofia Kovalevskaya  (Bohannon Hall Press, 2021, available here from; this volume that contains Coleman's translations from Russian along with background and thoughtful commentary.  The opening section of the book begins with these words from Kovalevskaya:

     I understand that you are surprised I can work at the same time
     in both literature and mathematics.  Many who have not had the 
     chance to learn more about mathematics confuse it with arithmetic
     and consider it to be a dry and arid science.  In truth, however,
     this science requires the greatest imagination, and one of the most
     respected mathematicians of our century has very rightly said
     that it is not possible to be a great mathematician without having
     the soul of a poet.                                                     S V. Kovalevskaya

Thank you, Sandy Coleman, for sharing Kovalevskaya's words with us!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

STEM Writing Contests -- reminders . . .


For the reason above -- and for the possibility of winning recognition and prizes --  please consider the following contests.

The NYTimes has announced its 3rd annual STEM Writing Contest -- information is found here and 500-word submissions are invited during the period Feb 2-March 9, 2022.

To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to mathematics, the Association for Women in Mathematics and Math for America are cosponsoring an essay contest for biographies based on interviews of math-women working in or retired from mathematical careers. The contest is open to students in Grades 6–8, Grades 9–12, and Undergraduate.  For more information, please visit the contest webpage or  contact the organizer, Dr. Johanna Franklin, at johanna.n.franklin (at)   The submission deadline is February 1, 2022.