2005 Math May Seminar

  • 2005 Student Photo Journal

  • Before I took the pre-May seminar class or went on the Math May seminar, I really only thought of math as problems or calculations on paper that needed to be solved. I guess in the back of my mind I knew it applied to much of our surroundings and history, but it took the class and trip for me to become more aware of its presence. In this way, I have definitely seen mathematics in a new light.

  • If this hadn't been a math trip there is no way math would have even come to mind while seeing all the amazing things we've seen, but when I step back to think about it, there is a math connection to everything we have seen. In the use and aesthetic of proportion in Egyptian sculpture, Greek architecture, and Renaissance paintings; in the status conveyed by geometrical shapes such as cartouches; in geometry again in the functionality of lintels, arches, and domes; in so many other amazing things we have seen and done on this trip I have seen mathematics in a new way.

  • My view of mathematics has changed over the past semester and month of May greatly. Before my seminar experience, I viewed mathematics as an instrument to strictly solve practical problems on paper. I never really looked at buildings, cars, temples, etc. as mathematical successes until this trip. I began to realize the importance of math applied to the real world, not only in present times but throughout mankind's existence on this planet.

  • Through a variety of experiences I have started to see mathematics in a new light. The study of basic patterns and symmetry in our pre-May seminar class really made me appreciate the mathematics behind the creation of the beautiful Islamic pieces I saw in Egypt, France, and England. Although I found them beautiful before, I now realize and like the fact that they are really based on mathematics.

  • When I take the time to think, it's amazing to see how important math is to art. For example, images and sculptures of people look more realistic if their body parts are proportional. It is incredible to think that Michelangelo intentionally made David's head and torso bigger so that David's body would look realistically proportional when seen from below. Also, artists can manipulate the height of figures in pictures to make them look close or farther away. Mathematics also plays an important role in architecture. For example, the arch (first used by the Etruscans) was instrumental to the structural stability of the Colosseum. Patterns such as the columns in Queen Hatshepsut's funerary temple can make a structure or an object of art more aesthetically pleasing.

  • The study of mathematics can also be the study of important historical individuals. It's hard to divorce Euclid from his logic and reason, and Archimedes from his obsessive innovativeness. Along similar lines, mathematics can help us to put our own society into perspective. When studying past and current math, we can be at the same time humbled by great minds of the past and at the same time amazed by how far humankind has advanced. Only a few other subjects have the ability to make such an impression in such the way that mathematics does.

  • Both the semester class and the May seminar have opened my eyes to how much math is present in my life. I deal with money on a daily basis, but now I have a greater appreciation for the value of a dollar! Also, I saw math present in the architecture of certain buildings and other sights. I believe that I will go home and continue to see math in my everyday life. The things that I normally pass by on a daily basis may be more significant to me. This trip has been an amazing journey that I have learned so much from and will never forget.

  • Over the last few months, and especially over the last few weeks I have realized how important mathematics is to these monumental structures we have had the privilege of seeing. For example, take the ancient Greek theatres. These structures' shape, size, & dimensions all had to be thought out in order to create a great theatre. How many people does it need to seat? How will the shape, height, & size fo the theatre affect the way people will hear from 60 rows back? How will everyone be able to see? What they had to do was create a mathematically proportionate semicircle of rows that were built upon one another so everyone in the theatre could see and hear.

  • I was delighted to learn about patterns & shapes. It was very fun to use your imagination and math at the same time. Imagining an infinite plane & rotating or moving figures according to a certain set of rules which I sometimes found difficult to obtain and follow. I can now find a shape, any shape, and answer the questions of whether it will completely fill the plane, overlap, or both.

  • While it is not always obvious, mathematics plays an enormous role in many areas of art such as paintings, sculptures, and the theatre. Mathematics in art was most apparent to me at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Mario Merz's Crocodilus Fibonacci displays a large crocodile with a sequence of numbers trailing behind. These numbers, glowing neon blue, happen to be the Fibonacci sequence (it really is mathematics in another light!). Math is often times more subtle in art, but there is a close connection between the two. An artist must have a firm grasp on proportions and angles in order to create realistic looking pieces. Angles are used to create depth in a painting or drawing. If an artist doesn't use the correct angles or proportions, a piece will not appear to have three dimensions. Math also became evident in the tapestries at the Vatican Museum. Several tapestries had patterns in the borders that could be explained by flips, rotations, mirror planes, etc. Patterns were also present at the theatre as well. Rotational symmetry was quite noticeable during one of the dance numbers in The Producers.

  • One way this trip has allowed me to see mathematics in a new light is by seeing its universal application. Travelling through so many countries with all different languages made me see that mathematics is an equalizer between nations. No matter where you go two plus two is going to equal four. The symbols may be different, but the concept is the same. I am going home with new and strengthened respect for mathematics in terms of everyday use, how it is a universal function, and for the inventors of mathematics.

  • I would like to start out by saying that math has not been and still is not my strong point in my education. I have not taken a math course since my senior year in high school. However, I have learned, and especially experienced, quite a bit of math on this trip. Between geometry, size, and weight, and monetary value, math has played a large role not only in ancient history but in the present also.

  • The part that really got me thinking about math in a new light prior to the trip was the symmetry exercises we'd do in class. I've never thought of the classifications of symmetry as math before. Although I've had geometry back in high school where we had to color these symmetrical patterns, I failed to make any real connection. Symmetry can be found all around us in many different ways.

  • So, through the course of this class and trip, I have come to see mathematics as something more than numbers and calculations, but instead as an important aspect of culture, which helps to illustrate the continued desire of mankind to push the limits of what is known and developed.

  • Before this class and May seminar I thought of math as numbers, functions, variables and problem solving. This combination of classes has tilted my perspective so that I am starting to see math in more than just numbers. I now notice mathematics in paintings, sculptures, theatre, ancient ruins, building structures, decorative designs, plants, and navigation. I'm starting to recognize that math is all around!

  • I was able to see architectural designs that we talked about in class. Some of the symmetries could be seen in the mosques we visited in Egypt. These patterns were evident in the carpets, domes, and tile work. Many of the artifacts from the older mosques could also be seen in the Louvre. These tile works and even decorative weapons carried the same type of symmetry and pattern.

  • While seeing mathematics in another light does not necessarily come right away naturally, I have learned a great deal about how important mathematics is in our world and I am much more capable in seeing the many functions of mathematics.

  • I've noticed the initial reaction to the thought of math (for most people) is not exactly positive. This is most likely because of difficult concepts and memories of confusion and frustration in high school calculus. One thing that I really noticed on this trip was that everyone, no matter their education level depends on math to survive.

  • I have taken a lot of mathematics classes during my high school and college years, but this class really started me thinking more about the history and background of all the mathematics I already know. I always believed that mathematics came from a bunch of old guys who sat up late at night completely isolated from society working with pen and paper. But now I realize that some mathematics is much more mechanically based. All of the mathematical tools we saw in the many museums makes mathematics seem more like a huge puzzle requiring many instruments to complete. One item that sticks out in my mind is the huge machine used to work with differential equations in England. It is amazing that this machine takes up an entire room while today we work with differential equations on computers.

Mathematics May Seminar