There is true “BEAUTY in Mathematics,” but do we enjoy and share it? You might be thinking—Math? Beautiful? Starting with simple equations which are balanced and rule following. Equations are like the building blocks of mathematics and stimulate creativity and a mathematician’s brain to make order and find solutions. These equations provide the things we enjoy such as technology gadgets, medicine, appliances, the space program and most of our entertainment.
Think about math in music for a moment which is divided much like fractions. Songs or pieces of music are separated into measures which are further “divided into beats” which are designated by notes, etc. If you have ever listened to a song mash up—you can hear the math in the rhythm, beat and pitch.
Nature is full of math including fractals which are a symmetrical pattern that continues to “fracture” or multiply the same pattern. Everyday examples of fractals are tree branches, snowflakes, lightning, and seashells. Fibonacci’s sequence (the rule where the next number in a sequence is the sum of the previous two) is found in everyday items such as the arrangements of leaves on a plant or a pine-cone. Math truly is BEAUTIFUL.
Check out these examples from on May 19, 2014, The Guardian.
Our brain actually responds to math in a similar way as to art and music exposure. According to James Gallager (2014) in an article entitled, “Why the Brain sees Math as Beauty,” he states, “Brain scans show a complex string of numbers and letters in mathematical formula can evoke the same sense of beauty as artistic masterpieces and music from the greatest composers.” The brain accesses the orbito-frontal cortex when both learning math and studying art. This part of the brain controls your emotion and decision making. This part of the brain is centered on what information you bring in visually and where the brain reverses visual associations and information into other information.
So, what does that mean for educators? In an article entitled, “Finding the Beauty in Math, Holly Korbey (2013) states, ” While research suggests that improving self-efficacy and providing math-positive role models can help spark interest and stave off math anxiety, what some mathematicians and teachers are looking for reaches beyond surviving or tolerating math class, but helping connect students to mathematics beauty.” This sentence jumped off the page because it is a reminder that the “beauty” in math is what makes it enjoyable and fun. This helps to alleviate anxiety and motivate students. Somehow we need to capture the beauty and the content and as Korbey (2013) says, “fall in love with math.”
Falling in love with math requires us to make math real and interesting to students. Infusing math with the arts is a way to create excitement and fun but also to make connections to the math found in the every day world. How does math fit in their every day lives?
- Shopping (All operations and Statistics on labels)
- Lemonade Stands (All operations)
- Video Games (Patterns and Sequences)
- Nature (Patterns, Sequences and Geometry)
- Architecture (Geometry)
- Coding or Computer Programming (Patterns, Sequences, Number Operations and Equations)
- Cooking (Measurement, Fractions)
- Music (Fractions, Patterns, and Sequences)
- Art (Geometry, Patterns and Sequences)
- Eating Out (All operations)
- Sports (All Operations, Patterns and Sequences)
Finding ways to infuse real world application into math makes the WHY stand out and helps students see the importance. Seeing the validity in math and how it fits in the real world helps to increase engagement and interest for students. We have increased the rigor and problem solving in our instruction but are we making this subject come alive? Kylene Beers (in a FB Post on 2/26/2016) stated, “rigor without relevance is simply hard.” Using a program, such as Engage NY, makes infusing engagement and relevance difficult but maybe by integrating some technology, art and music into our instruction it would be a beginning.
Finding the beauty in math and “falling in love” (Korbey 2013)–WHAT A GREAT CHANGE!
Resources Accessed for this Article:
James Gallagher (2014) in a BBC Post: Why the Brain sees Math as Beauty accessed on February 24, 2016
Viewed photos from The Guardian on February 25, 2016
Holly Korbey (2013) article: Finding the Beauty in Math accessed on February 25, 2016