Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Nine-Sided Diamond

   One of my much-appreciated math-poetry connections is with Scott W. Williams, a Professor of Mathematics at SUNY Buffalo and author of many scholarly papers and many poems.  In a recent issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics (JHM) I found (and valued reading) his "Impossible Haiku" -- a series of Haiku-stanzas that play with the Collatz Conjecture -- an unproven belief that for any starting number these two steps, performed in appropriate succession, eventually reach the number 1:

   If the number is odd, multiply by 3 and add 1; if the number is even, divide it by 2. 

Williams' "Impossible Haiku" may be found at this link.      Another mathy poem by Williams (found here at his website) that I especially value is the one that I offer below -- a poem dedicated to his mother.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Hunger -- portrayed in poetry and numbers

      Since 2003, SPLIT THIS ROCK has been an activist poetry organization that protests war and injustice.   Besides readings and conferences, Split this Rock also connects members by emailing a POEM OF THE WEEK series.  Most often, these poems are not mathematical in nature -- but one of the recent offerings is a verbal picture that uses numbers -- "meat market" by New York multidisciplinary artist Lara Attallah.  I include a portion of this poem below.   

    meat market    by Lara Atallah

             after Lebanon, a country with one of the worst economic crises since the nineteenth century

    the price of bread has gone up again. throngs of cars
    slouch towards shuttering gas stations. the currency, a farce

    with each swing of the gavel, numbers
    soar. fifty thousand pounds by day’s end,  

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

MAA Math Values Blog values poetry!

     I am a long-time member of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) -- an organization (with administrative offices in Washington, DC)  whose mission is "to advance the understanding of mathematics and its impact on our world."   The MAA website states:

Our members include university, college, middle, and high school mathematics faculty; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in government, business, and industry. We welcome all who are interested in the mathematical sciences.

     An important feature on the MAA website is their Math Values blog -- which has frequent postings from diverse voices within mathematics; these postings include important mathematical information and also math's connections to the larger world -- including teaching and learning, the arts, practical math-applications  . . .and more . . . 

     Recently in the Math Values blog I came across this posting (from June 2023) by Czech poet and artist Radoslav Rochallyi of what he calls VECTOR poetry; here is a screen-shot of a sample -- a poem developed from the phrase: Time is pouring out of my broken watch glass. You look ahead, and you're right. Because the potential of the past is just … a sandcastle.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Shaping a Poem with Fibonacci numbers

      One of my favorite websites to visit is this varied and thoughtful "Poetry and Mathematics"  collection of postings by Marian Christie.

     Throughout history, people who write poems have often been aided by constraints.  When we sit down to write, writing the words that first occur to us -- then shaping the word into extended meanings but following a pattern of rhythm or rhyme or word-count . . . or . . .  .  For many poets the sonnet, for example, has been a poetic structure that shapes thoughts into special arrangements of words.

     In long-ago days, when print and screen versions of poems were not easily available, rhyme schemes were an important aid -- helping one's memory to keep a poem in one's head.  Now, aided by widely available print and online visibility, poetry has moved into new forms -- including a variety of visual arrangements.  

Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Template for Student Math Poems

      Earlier this month, mathematician, songwriter, and poet Larry Lesser posted a link on Facebook to an article (found here at "The Conversation") about ways that Penn State University Professor Ricardo Martinez combines mathematics and poetry in a course entitled "The Ways Math and Poetry Can Open Your Eyes to the World."   When asked, "What prompted the idea for the course?", Martinex responded:

I have always enjoyed writing poetry. As a high school mathematics teacher, I recall telling my students that everything is and can be connected to math, even creative writing. Then, as a graduate student, I read about people using “I am” poem templates for young people to express who they are through a series of “I am” statements, and I thought to myself, where is the “I am” math poem template? So I created one.

Here is a portion of a template that Martinez has created to use with students: 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Lost Women of Science

     One of the fascinating websites that I have found recently "Lost Women of Science" -- a podcast series available at  This site has lots of bios and I browsed among them using the search term "mathematics".  One of the fascinating stories that I found is that of Naomi Livesay -- who played a key role in the Manhattan project.

Learn more about Naomi Livesay at this link.

     These recent considerations of women in science have led me to recall a blog posting that I made back in June of 2012 that featured this poem of mine (with stanzas that are syllable-squares):

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Math Biographies at the University of St. Andrews

     One of the very informative and math-related Twitter postings that I follow is @StA_Maths_Stats --which features postings from the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  These include postings that feature mathematicians.  Today's Mathematicians of the day posting features a list of math people (with links to bios) who were born or died on August 10  -- and it includes this quote from Oswald Veblen, topologist and geometer from the United States who died on this date in 1960:

Mathematics is one of the essential emanations of the human spirit, a thing to be valued in and for itself, like art or poetry.

My search at the St. Andrews website for occurrences of the word "poem" led to a list of 179 responses.  Here is the poem I found at the first item on that list:

Monday, August 7, 2023

Life described by counting -- "My Math"

      One of my art-and-poetry friends, Kyi May Kaung alerted me to the online journal, Glass -- and I had lots of fun browsing in the archives . . . . and found (in Volume 1, Issue 2) a mathy poem-- which I offer below.

      My Math     by Allan Peterson

          Two egrets and three gulls are five,
          ten with shadows, doubles of the night in daylight,
          plus two for the red hawks watching.
          This is my math, just as I was multiplied by the bear
          and her cubs crossing at Chama,
          by the swarm of winged ants and the warblers
          that came frenzied for them.
          If I wait for the fall migration, if I am my integer
          while being stalked by bacteria,
          I might calculate an uneasiness of earth, including
          the skink that hides in the dryer vent,
          a continent about to shift in its chair, but I am impatient,
          still counting deliberately on my fingers and stars.

Another poem by Peterson with lots of numbers may be found here at

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Creative, Mathy, Poetic -- Mathematickles

       The website of author and screenwriter Betsy Franco contains a great variety of literary links (including this link to this interview of Franco by Oprah).  Her writing includes poetry -- including collections of mathy poems for kids:  Counting Our Way to the 100th Day   and Mathematickles -- small mathy stanzas that are a bit like Haiku.

Here is a sample from Mathematickles

Mathematickles are math haiku that tickle your brain. Fun words take the place of numbers in all sorts of math problems. Math becomes playful, beautiful, sassy, and creative in this whimsical romp through the seasons! 

Mathematickles -- by Betsy Franco