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When Math and Art Meet

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Knitting can create more than beautiful patterns. It can create enthusiasm for math too. On a recent visit to the National Museum of Mathematics, students in Harlem Academy’s fiber arts elective explored how math and the art of crafting intersect.

Students creating symmetric patterns at the Museum.

As avid knitters, our fiber arts students already know the importance of math to their craft: counting stitches, calculating gauge. After attending the presentation, The Fabric of Symmetry: Connecting Mathematics and Fiber Arts, they now also know how the mathematical properties of symmetry apply to knitting. “It was amazing to see all the symmetries in knitting and embroidery. It’s easy to take it for granted, but a lot of thought goes into these designs—and the symmetry is part of what makes them so beautiful,” said sixth-grader Sedina, a novice knitter. “I was so inspired by the intricate sweaters and shawls I saw.”

She wasn’t alone—fellow classmate, Kely, a knitter since second grade, was equally inspired. “The National Museum of Mathematics is one of my favorite museums, and I was really excited to learn about patterns and symmetry.”

Working hard on a scarf during knitting elective.

Harlem Academy’s math program focuses on developing advanced academic skills. “To realize that goal, we focus on engaging students so that they are motivated to dive into the most challenging content,” said Leah Weintraub, Harlem Academy middle school director. This talk did exactly that.

The event’s speaker was Susan Goldstine, professor of mathematics at St. Mary’s College and associate editor of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts. “Professor Goldstine brought so much enthusiasm to her talk,” said Ms. Weintraub. “I loved seeing our students completely engaged in a higher-level math lecture!”

Thank you to the Cat MacRae Fund for supporting the development of our math program.