Friday, November 27, 2020

November is Native American Heritage Month

      Today, the day after Thanksgiving, is Native American Heritage Day -- a November event that was proclaimed in 2009 by President Obama and is part of Native American Indian Heritage Month (established in 1990 by President Bush.)  The disregard with which native Americans have been treated over many years has created huge wounds that will take long to heal.  Both mathematics and poetry can help to support justice and truth!  At present, the US Poet Laureate is Joy Harjo of the Muskogee Nation -- and Harjo is active in using the educational and healing powers of poetry.   Here is a link to some lines from Harjo's "Becoming Seventy" -- posted in this blog back in 2019.

     The website helps us to celebrate Native American Heritage Month with a collection of poetic resources found at this link.  One of the poems offered -- which makes effective use of numbers in describing difficult situations -- is "Housing Conditions of One Hundred Fifty Chippewa Families" by Kimberly Blaeser.  I offer a few lines of that poem below -- followed by a link to the entire poem. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gather in Poems

 Gather in Poems -- a sort of Thanksgiving

     Last evening I attended a lovely virtual reading, "Gather in Poems," sponsored by the Academy of American Poets (advertised on Facebook) and moderated by  US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.  One of the readers was a student poet -- high school junior Ethan Wang -- who shared a science-inspired poem by Rosebud Ben-Oni entitled "So They Say--They Finally Nailed--the Proton's Size--& Hope--Dies."  Here are a few lines from the poem -- and the entire poem may be found here.

. . .    I don’t believe hope dies
         just because old measurements got it
         wrong & there are no secret lives
         between protons & muons
         that cause the former to change
         in size,
         silencing all the music
         that drives us
         toward mystery
         rather than discovery.       . . .

One of the delightful--and free--services of the Academy of American Poets is free email delivery of "A Poem a Day."  Sign up here at

Monday, November 23, 2020

Happy Fibonacci Day!

        Today, November 23 is Fibonacci Day . . . How are you celebrating?  Twitter poet Brian Bilston (@Brian_Bilston) has posted a Fibonacci poem -- with words-per-line counted by the Fibonacci numbers.  Here are its opening lines:

       a poem
       in a tweet
       but then each line grew
       to the word sum of the previous two
       until . . .

Use of the Fibonacci numbers in poetry has gotten frequent mention in this blog; here is a link to the results of a blog SEARCH using the term Fibonacci.  And find the rest of Brian's poem here on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Syllable-count constraints help me to think carefully about word choices as I construct a poem.  Here are square and triangular stanzas that came into my head recently while I was jogging.

In addition, when working with students,  I often find that they explore their ideas most easily when I suggest that they follow syllable-counting constraints.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Poetry and Mathematics -- opening doors . . .

Since 1998 The Bridges Organization has been offering conferences that publicize and celebrate links connecting mathematics and the arts.  Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 conference was virtual -- but papers submitted to the conference are available online here.

One of the 2020 titles that has especially interested me is "Poetry in the Lesson of Mathematics" by Natalija Budinski and Zsolt Lavicza, available at this link.  The article describes a case study on how poetry can be used as a teaching tool in math classes -- helping students to understand complex mathematical concepts by writing about them using guidelines from poetry.

Links to additional Bridges articles by Budinski and by Lavicza are available via SEARCH here in the Bridges Archives.  And some of my earlier suggestions about using poetry in math classes are found in this posting.

In closing, a stanza from a long-ago poem of mine, "A Taste of Mathematics":

          She said, "A hot pepper
          is like mathematics--
          with strong flavor
          that takes over
          it enters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Venn Diagrams

      During these days of classifying people and points of view, my thoughts turn again and again to Venn Diagrams and I am then reminded of a thoughtful poem about math in grade-school days (by Pennsylvania poet and professor Marjorie Maddox) that I first read long ago -- and I offer it here:  

Learn about Venn Diagrams here

Venn Diagrams     

          by Marjorie Maddox   

There, stuck in that class,
chalking circles on a board 
       so high your toes ached,
an inch of sock exposed,
all for the sake of subsets,
That teacher with the tie too bright for day,
wide as your fingers spread  

Monday, November 9, 2020

Special Days for Mathematics

Today is the birthday of black mathematician, astronomer, almanac-writer and puzzle-maker Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) -- and some of his puzzles were poems:  this link leads to this blog's previous postings of his work.

This week (November 9-14) is  2020 Maths Week in England.  Learn more, via an introductory video, here.

During these Covid-19 days of isolation I am particularly aware of distances that separate me from those I love . ..  and the numbers that keep track of it all.  Here are opening lines from the poem "Distances" by Peter Meinke that reflect on the changeable meanings of numbers. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Varieties of SQUARE poems

     When writing a poem on a topic about which I feel strongly, I often like to use constraints -- such as patterns of syllable-counts or rhymes -- to help me to process my ideas carefully.   A recent post by mathematician-poet Marian Christie does a delightful job of showing how the square can be used to shape very fine poems.  Here is a link to Christie's post, "Mathematical forms in poetry:  Square poems" -- a posting which includes examples of acrostic poems and grid poems, palindromes, Latin squares and visual poetry.

     Below I offer one of Christie's own poems, "Earth Geometry" -- a poem that involves the square and the cube in its structure and thereby relates to ancient theories of matter and to a more current belief that the cube is a basic structure of the earth. (View Christie's full explanation here.)

Monday, November 2, 2020

Voting is on the calendar!

Poetry often surprises us by using familiar words in new ways -- and such is also the case with this cryptarithmetic puzzle -- offered by Evelyn Lamb in her AMS page-a-day calendar for tomorrow, Election Day.

           + VOTES

In this puzzle (which Lamb credits to Manan Shah at each letter represents a base ten digit, no letter represents more than one digit at a time and no digit can be paired with more than one letter.  There are no leading zeroes; there are two solutions.  While you are waiting for results from the November 3 US election, this puzzle can help you pass the time in a way that's FUN!