Thursday, October 20, 2022

Communicating Mathematics with Poetry

     Each year MoMath (The National Museum of Mathematics) sponsors The Steven H. Strogatz Prize for Math Communication -- a contest for high school students; guidelines for next year's contest (deadline:  April 28, 2023) are available here.

      The 2022 Strogatz Prize winners include a poem -- "a proof of the function me" -- by Wyeth Renwick; here are its opening lines.

a proof of the function me     by Wyeth Renwick

          step one.
   find u.

          step two.
   add u to me and watch how the whole graph shifts upwards
   to make a u sized space where before it was only me
   until we're floating above the x-axis, u + me, an infinite
   line that stretches on past billions of little boxes
   on this graph paper grid.  let yourself think
   that maybe, just maybe, we were made for this - let yourself
   solve for the limits of the function and find that
   u + me approaches infinity.

          step three.

   square it all, square everything - make us into the parabola
   that my smile can't help but curve into when you pull
   our pinkies together and hold on real tight . . . 

 Renwick's complete poem is available here (click on poem-title).

The MoMath website offers these thoughtful comments about the poem:

     Wyeth Renwick’s poem is intriguingly ambiguous and open to interpretation: some of the judges read it as a love poem that winks at the reader with its use of mathematical concepts and language, while others saw it as a poetic animation of a human relationship, viewed as the graph of a function.  Either way, it makes math and poetry both seem more accessible to students who might otherwise not be drawn to these subjects.

Here is a link to previous postings in this blog that mention MoMath.

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