## Friday, October 15, 2010

### Voices in a Geometry Classroom

I have been invited to return next week (October 20 at 7 PM) to Bloomsburg University, where I taught mathematics for lots of years, for a poetry reading.  Preparation for the reading (which celebrates my new book, Red Has No Reason) drew my thinking back to my teaching days at Bloom and to "Geometry Demonstration," a poem about the arguments in my head as I faced a particularly challenging class of geometry students.  Here it is.

Geometry Demonstration       by JoAnne Growney

Yesterday, some visitors
interrupted geometry class --
angry voices raged around the room,
unwilling to stay caged within my head
while I spoke enthusiastically
of axioms of incidence,
placements of parallels,
numbers of degrees
in the angles of rectangles.

Wake up. This is not difficult --
no hungry mouths to feed, no
a polygonal attitude. Examine
an assumption. Abandon the postulate
that says, don't ever question.
You were not born knowing.
on a tangent of hyperbolic thought.

Open up.
Let one eye watch
the parallels
that meet.
Shift to a point
of perspectivity.
Draw those lines
that cross

My students ignored these stirring voices,
so I dismissed them and went on--
rightly coaxing obtuse angles
to square up
and respond.

This poem was first published in 1996 in The College Mathematics Journal with the title "Geometry Class."  This and other math-related poems may be found at my website.

1. Your discussion and poem on Geometry brought to mind this poem by Rita Dove.

GEOMETRY

By Rita Dove

Geometry

I prove a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they’ve intersected.
They are going to prove some point true and unproven.

2. Thanks for bringing Rita Dove's poem to my attention again. It also is included in my
August 10 posting: http://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com/2010/08/excitement-in-mathematics-classrooms.html