Math in Color

The Art of Mathematics

Ava fit a green construction-paper shape into the “V” formed by orange and red pentagons. “We’re making dodecahedrons, a twelve-sided 3D shape,” she said.

“You have these pentagon shapes, three for each corner,” Ava continued, pointing to the colored shapes on her desk. “We learned about platonic solids, how the dodecahedron is a platonic solid because the faces are the same and there are three faces that go together at each vertex.”

Students in The Art of Mathematics today sat amongst the colorful debris of cut paper, working on their dodecahedrons. While most mathematical artists in the room cut their pentagon shapes from a variety of colors, Dominic decided to go with the classic black and white. Dominic said he traced the shapes first, “then we have to cut out 12.”

Gavin was the first to finish his large dodecahedron, so he decided to take it one step further. “I’m making mini ones that will go inside of it,” he said. In addition, he drew sketches on each small pentagon to add more visual interest.

Samantha also decided to think outside of the dodecahedron box. Most of the students stapled the pieces together with the staples on the outside. Samantha folded her pentagon sides in so the staples wouldn’t show. Her technique created smooth precise seams on the outside of the dodecahedron. “I think it will look more clean,” she said. “But, it’s definitely harder.”

James listed some of the lessons they had learned in the class. “The dodecahedron, symmetry, and Sierpinski’s Triangle,” he said.

Ilsa jumped in to explain Sierpinksi’s Triangle. “It’s a never-ending triangle. You start with a triangle, add another triangle, then divide it into more triangles until there’s literally no more space available.”

Kenley colored the triangles in her Sierpinski’s Triangle design. “You keep adding triangles and it goes on forever,” she said. “It’s a fractal.”

Kenley showed me the portfolio she created to store her two-dimensional work. “I did reflective pieces,” she said, flipping through her handmade journal. “I used a ‘mira’. It’s sort of like a tracing tool. Here, I’ll show you.” Kenley grabbed a red six-inch rectangular plastic tool from a box and set it on the edge of one of her drawings. The image reflected perfectly onto the table to create a double image. She mimicked how she could then draw the reflected image. “It’s sometimes really hard to draw it so you start with small designs,” she explained.

In addition to examples of reflective and rotational symmetry, student’s portfolios included colorful, puzzle-like tessellations and fractals. Students are also responsible for creating several 3D projects: three platonic solids – like the dodecahedrons – and two origami creations.