Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Five Little Pumpkins

 
Happy Halloween!

This children's rhyme is found at the DeepLearningToolKits(DLTK) website) and available at that site also with downloadable illustrations.  Enjoy!

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Prince of Algebra . . . and SAT scores

     An article in a recent issue of the Washington Post (perhaps this link will get you to it) told of a drop in SAT scores for the Class of 2018 -- and it has got me to thinking about various approaches to teaching and learning and about what test scores measure. Once -- a dozen or so years ago -- I got roped into helping with an SAT-prep course and was astounded to learn how much improvement was predicted for strategies relating to when to guess, when to give no answer, and so on.
     As I parented children moving through school, it seemed to me that one of the best features in their educational years was variety in their teachers.  We want -- in our math classes and throughout our schools -- to educate people who can keep on learning and who can respond to unexpected situations.  Multiple choice questions on SAT tests represent only one aspect of that variety.
     Teachers meet a variety of students -- and none of us are perfectly suited for them all.  One of the interesting students to whom I tried to be helpful speaks in the following poem, "The Prince of Algebra," also previously posted in this blog on January 10, 2014.

 The Prince of Algebra      by JoAnne Growney

       Madam Professor,
       let me introduce myself.
       I'm Albert James,
       whom you may know
       by my test score
       that's lower than my age.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Enter by Nov 9 -- Student Math-Poetry Contest

Contest sponsored by the American Mathematical Society
 for 
 junior-high students . . .  . senior-high students . . . college students 
 from Maryland 
WRITE A  POEM  with connections to  MATH  -- Send it to AMS

Here's a link to contest information:  www.ams.org/math-poetry  
This blog's posting for October 10 also gives some information about the student contest.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Describing a scene with numbers

     Lana Hechtman Ayers is a versatile and accomplished poet who also has a degree in mathematics --  in her poem below, she paints a picture with numbers.

       Algebra     by Lana Hechtman Ayers

       4 women
       of 3 generations
       are walking along
       2nd Street together
       in the rain
       without any number
       of umbrellas.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Read your Math-Poetry in Baltimore, 1/18/19

You are invited be part of a reading of math-linked poetry 
sponsored by the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics  and  SIGMAA-ARTS
Baltimore Convention Center  Room 301  
Friday, January 18, 2019  7 - 8:30 PM

 Celebrate MATH PEOPLE with poems! 

All interested in mathematical poetry/art are welcome.  Come to share your poems about famous or not-famous math personalities (the researcher, the teacher, the geek, the reluctant student, or whomever) – or join us simply to enjoy hearing the work of others!   Though we do not discourage last-minute decisions to participate, we encourage poets to 
          submit poetry (up to 3 poems, reading time up to 5 minutes) 
                    and a 40-word bio         in advance  (by early November)
so you can be listed in our printed program. Early submissions are encouraged, by November 1 would be GREAT -- but submissions will be considered into mid or late November.    Send submissions (and inquiries) to Gizem Karaali (gizem.karaali AT pomona.edu). Organizers of the event include JoAnne Growney, Gizem Karaali, Lawrence M. Lesser, and Douglas Norton.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Math-themed -- and seasonal -- Haiku

      Artist and computer scientist Stephen Luecking, now retired from teaching at DePaul University, has sent me some of his Haiku with mathematical imagery; enjoy!
fractals vein the leaves  
swirling in random descent  
autumn winds howling    

crystal hexagons  
drifting from darkening clouds  
earth sleeps in white gown  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Can numbers be a bridge to understanding. . . ?


Fifty-Fifty     by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

       What is there for us two
       to split fifty-fifty,
       to go halvers on?
            A Bible, a deck of cards?
            a farm, a frying pan?
            a porch, front steps to sit on?
       How can we be pals
            when you speak English
            and I speak English
            and you never understand me
            and I never understand you?

This poem is on my shelf in Sandburg's collection, Honey and Salt (Harcourt, Brace; 1963).

Friday, October 12, 2018

The music of twelve tones -- in poems

     Inspired by the musical composition strategy twelve-tone technique -- devised by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1974-1951), in which all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sound as often as one another in a piece of music -- American poet Elizabeth Bartlett (1911-1994) has developed the twelve-tone poem.  In Bartlett's words:
       The poem consists of 12 lines, divided into couplets. 
       Each couplet contains 12 syllables, using the natural cadence of speech. 
       The accented sounds of the words are considered tones. 
       Only 12 tones are used throughout the poem, repeated various times. 
       As a result, the poem achieves a rare harmony that is purely lyrical, 
                    enriching its imagery and meaning

The following poem is on my shelf in Memory Is No Stranger (Ohio Univ. Press, 1981), a collection of Bartlett's twelve-tone poems; it also is found in the math-poetry anthology Against Infinity (Primary Press, 1979).

       The Infinite Present   by Elizabeth Bartlett

       Because I longed
       to comprehend the infinite  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Math-Poetry Contest for Maryland Students

Submission deadline:  November 9, 2018
Winners Announced:  December 12, 2018
Winning Poems Presented:  January 19, 2019
     The American Mathematical Society is conducting a math poetry contest for Maryland students–middle school, high school, and undergraduate students -- as part of the 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore (Jan. 16-19, Baltimore Convention Center).   The contest is free to enter; information is at this link.  Winning poems will be printed on posters and poets will read them at the meeting as part of Mathemati-Con, a math festival for students.

          Write
          a
          thoughtful
          poem that
          shows ways math is most
          amazing -- a subject we love!

The stanza above is a Fib -- whose lines have syllables counted by the first six Fibonacci numbers.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A special Fibonacci poem

     A recent email from Marian Christie -- a nominally retired mathematics teacher from Aberdeenshire  -- alerted me to her very special sort of Fibonacci poem, one in which the number of letters-per-line follows the Fibonacci numbers AND the length of each word is a Fibonacci number AND the poem speaks about the objects counted by these Fibonacci numbers.

Pathways      by Marian Christie

O
I
am
not
going
anywhere
unaccompanied
by life’s patterns: a whorl
in a pinecone, branches on oak or elm trees, 
the petal count of a daisy, the helix at the heart of a chrysanthemum,
the shell of a nautilus swimming in the ocean. A sequence hides in the shape of
                                                                                   probabilities, and in my own DNA. 

Poet's Note: In this poem the number of letters per line is determined by the Fibonacci sequence: the first line has zero letters while the last line, representing the twelfth number in the sequence, contains 89 letters. In addition, the letters of each word add up to a Fibonacci number.  
Christie's poem was first published on the UK-based website IndependentVariable.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Line and design -- poetry by Adrienne Rich

     A poem I first read during my high school years -- and have loved ever since -- is "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).  Found along with that poem in Collected Early Poems 1950-1970  (W W Norton, 1994) is another poem by Rich that I also like a lot -- and offer below -- this one containing a bit of mathematics and a lot to reflect on . . .

          Boundary     by Adrienne Rich

          What has happened here will do
          To bite the living world in two,
          Half for me and half for you.
          Here at last I fix a line
          Severing the world’s design
          Too small to hold both yours and mine.
          There’s enormity in a hair
          Enough to lead men not to share
          Narrow confines of a sphere
          But put an ocean or a fence
          Between two opposite intents.
          A hair would span the difference.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The equal sign--and poetry--from Robert Recorde

  A poetic introduction of the equal sign (by Robert Recorde): 

This image is an excerpt from Recorde's The Whetstone of Witte (1557)

    Robert Recorde was born in Wales around 1510-12; he taught mathematics at both Oxford and Cambridge and got his MD from Cambridge in 1545 -- and became a physician to royalty.  He published a number of mathematical works -- one of the best known being The Whetstone of Witte (1557) -- a photographic copy of several of its pages is available here. He is lauded for the invention of the equal sign, first appearing, as shown above, in The Whetstone of Witte.  -- This article from 2015 in WalesOnline cites Recorde's greatest achievement to be making mathematics accessible to a general reader.