Sunday, September 30, 2018

Counting syllables . . . measuring memory

Political events of this past week (involving a candidate nominated by President 45 to serve on the Supreme Court) have triggered my thinking about the transience of memory.  Here is a Syllable-Snowball poem that includes some of these musings:

What happened back then?

disagrees --
her version of
our  growing-up  lives
   so          often         discrepant
     from mine. Each new year -- 
  new           distances,
new    angles,
shape our

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Name five!

     A recent mailing from the National Museum of Women in the Arts offered me this challenge:  name five female artists!  Including friends who are artists made this easy -- but I needed a bit of internet help to list five famous names.  This effort has suggests another challenge: 
One way to meet math-women is through a variety of poems that celebrate them -- lots of poems about math-women are found in this blog.  The Search and Labels features (in right-hand column of blog) can be useful.  Here are several links to get started:
       A poem by Brian McCabe about Sophie Germain;
              a poem by Eavan Boland about Grace Murray Hopper;    
                     a poem by Carol Dorf about Ada Lovelace;
                            a poem of mine about Sofia Kovalevsky;
                                   a poem of mine about Emmy Noether
And this link leads to a great variety of math-women resources.

A few words in closing:

          14 Syllables

          A hen lays eggs
          one by one;
          the way you
          count life
          is life.

from JoAnne Growney's collection Red Has No Reason (Plain View Press, 2010).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate math students -- a Fibonacci poem!

     South Dakota mathematician Dan May teaches mathematics at Black Hills State University where he also leads workshops for middle school teachers, explores musicology and the connections between poetry and discrete mathematics. He has been involved in math-poetry activities at Bridges Math-Arts conferences but, more importantly, he has been involved with BEAM (Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics), a program offering varied academic assistance to underserved students, including a summer residential program. The following Fibonacci poem celebrates that adventure.

BEAM: A Fibonacci Poem     by Dan May

are home — 
Brooklyn, Queens, 
the Bronx, your boroughs. 
Only yesterday still at camp, 
learning knots and graphs, writing proofs on infinity. 
I taught you the one hundred and sixty-eight automorphisms of the Fano plane. 
You wear hijabs, or Jordans, or both. Diverse faces 
display the doubts of twelve-year-olds. 
But each of you, when 
you get it — 
your face 

Author’s Note: The poem’s syllable line count follows the 
Fibonacci sequence numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 forward and backward.  
This poem and several others of Dan May's math-linked poems may be found here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A mathy poem for sale . . . in Kenya

     A vernacular poem by Kenyan writer Alexander Nderitu ("Kenya's Shakespeare") -- entitled "Mathabu ma Carey Francis" (in English, "The Mathematics of Carey Francis) -- is being auctioned by the poet for bids starting at a million Kenya shillings (a bit less than $1000 US).  Notable about this auction piece is that the background design on which the poem will appear is the poet's DNA sequence.

The opening stanza of Nderitu's poem 

Wikipedia, this statement about Edward Carey FrancisEdward Carey Francis (13 September 1897 – 27 July 1966) was a British mathematician and Anglican missionary to Kenya, where he became "arguably the most influential educationist in Kenya's modern history."  

Monday, September 17, 2018

Time and Precision . . . .

   California poet Carol Dorf is a semi-retired secondary school mathematics teacher who is an important force in poetry.  Not only a fine poet, Carol also is Poetry Editor of TalkingWriting, an online journal that sometimes features mathy poems.  It has been my pleasure to meet Carol and to read with her on several occasions, most recently at the 2017 Bridges Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.  The following poem is one that Carol read at Bridges 2018 and it is included in the Bridges Stockholm 2018 Poetry Anthology; it is a thoughtful reflection on the way that time -- and precision in its measurement -- varies in our lives.

Announce the Hour You Have Clocks For    by Carol Dorf
Time progresses through the bells 
announcing each moment of occupation: 
toilet, wash, dress, eat, work a, break, work b . . . 
eat, undress, wash, toilet. 

Schematic, yes. Our clocks' precision  
increases until the second, 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Meeting Math People via Poems

     Mathematics classes are crowded with vital material and it is hard to find time to also consider the PEOPLE of mathematics -- one way to do this is by offering poems.  In the September issue of Math Horizons, my brief article, "Mathematics and Poetry" offers a variety of samples -- introducing poems by mathematicians (including William Rowan Hamilton) and poems about mathematicians (Brian McCabe writing about Sophie Germaine, Cathryn Essinger writing about her super-logical brother).  
     Here are a pair of lines from Voltaire about mathematician and scientist Émilie Du Châtelet:

               She has, I assure you, a genius rare.
               With Horace and Newton, she can compare. 

     A wonderful poem to add to those quoted in the article is in the voice of a math student who protests discrimination; it is by Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992) and entitled "Hanging Fire" -- the complete poem is posted here.

               I should have been on the Math Team
               my marks were better than his

Here is a link to a pdf of the Math Horizons article.  The article does not contain web-links, BUT each of the poems may be found by searching this blog using the poet's name.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Math Limerick Stories

     Mathematics teacher Josephine Johansen is a talented teacher who works to help her students LOVE mathematics.  Below are two stanzas from her illustrated tale, "The Algebra of Tree Wisdom" --written in limerick stanzas: 

Pat says "Say you put on your ring 
Then your necklace to you I bring 
Whichever you choose
To do first, you'll not lose
You'll still be dressed for your fling."

Pete adds "On the other hand
Putting shoes and socks on as planned
        Is not commutative
       Won’t switching order give
An outcome that would be unplanned."  

Monday, September 10, 2018

OEDLIF -- with definitions in limerick form

     Since 2004, ODELIF, the Oxford English Dictionary in Limerick Form has been assembling limerick definitions of English words.  I learned about this amazing project in the Washington Post -- in a weekly column by Pat Myers entitled "The Style Invitational".  Each year, Myers invites readers to submit limericks that define terms in a particular alphabetic range.  This year's contest requested limericks that define words beginning with gl- to go-Follow this link (and scroll) down to see some of the winners (announced this past weekend).
     Alas, none of the winning limericks involved math terms, and so I offer here one of my non-winning submissions.
When you have time, visit ODELIF -- browse its limerick offerings and consider contributing some of your own. And, if you like, add limericks here via your comments below.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Something or Nothing -- Thinking about Zero

     The site of the 2019 Bridges Math-Arts conference has been announced  -- it will meet in Linz, Austria next July.  This link leads to the archives of the 2018 and earlier conferences.  Each recent year a poetry reading (coordinated by Sarah Glaz) has been part of the Bridges activities -- and this year a poetry anthology also was compiled.  Here is a poem by Canadian poet Alice Major that was featured both in this year's reading and in the anthology  -- a poem that also appears, along with other math and science poems, in Major's latest collection, Welcome to the Anthropocene. (University of Alberta Press, 2018).  Major's poem examines death and, as it does so, explores various meanings of zero.

Zero divided by zero     by Alice Major

There is no right answer.
The trains of logic crash, annihilate
certainty. Zero is just as good an answer
as one. Nothingness or loneliness.
There is no right answer.    

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

As a new school-year starts, a Latin Square poem

 With MATH in the middle, 
 here is a LATIN-SQUARE poem that starts and ends with GIRLS