All Square with Math and Art

by Roland Minton on May 6, 2016

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One of the definitions of square is “conventional” or “boring.” This spring’s art gallery presentation by Jan Minton’s Honors 301 class puts the lie to that. The phrase “mind blown” was used in at least one student’s description of her work.

Students in the Mathematics and Art class created visual representations of how you can think outside the box with the humble square. Above, Mackenzie Connolly discusses her Pythagorean tree, which is composed of numerous representations of the famous Pythagorean Theorem. One interesting product of this is that the total area of each color used is the same (red equals orange equals yellow …)!

Below, Sloane Fisher explains that the pink and orange fabric pieces in her work are squares. That is, they are squares in hyperbolic geometry, a type of geometry that is mathematically valid and useful, if a tad disorienting.

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Jan Minton’s contributions were tasty. She designed and 3-D printed cookie cutters in the style of M.C. Escher.

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The cats and birds below are each based on square tilings. Imagine a batch of square tiles laid out to cover a floor. Then curve the sides of each tile so that the top of the tile fits into the bottom, and the left side of the tile fits into the right side. A little more work and you’ve got the cats and birds shown below.

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Creativity and beauty, starting with the mathematics of squares. The exhibit All Square in the Honors classroom in New Hall is decidedly unconventional and interesting.

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