#MathArtChallenge Day 72: Stars

I spent a long time last night and this morning thinking about whether I should post a challenge today. I live in Minneapolis. I spent a long time last night listening to pops and bangs and sirens. I know that my students are not okay. I truly hope they are safe, but I can’t imagine most of them are okay right now. There’s so much trauma and anger and fear in this city right now.

I’ve ultimately decided to post this, almost entirely based on the fact that my students have regularly shared that watching these videos is a highlight and happy part of their day during this pandemic. If I can give them even a 20 second respite to breathe, then it’s worth it. I also know that math is my refuge. I am not my students, of course, but when I am upset/angry/confused/overwhelmed doodling and sketching and doing math brings me some semblance of peace. Maybe this can do that for some of them, too.

I specifically picked something that requires NO special anything – no grid paper, just a writing utensil and something to write on.

Start with a circle of dots. Doesn’t matter if they’re evenly spaced. A good one to start with is 6 dots. Then begin connecting every other dot. Then try connecting every 3rd dot. Now try 7 dots. Connect every other dot. Continue around. Eventually, try with 11 or 12 (or more) dots. You get some pleasing doodles and some time to think and ponder and breathe.

#MathArtChallenge Day 71: Sona Drawings

Given what’s happening in my community right now, I felt it was necessary to highlight some Black brilliance today.

The Challenge: (Re)create a Sona drawing. I did a couple hours of research yesterday (which is totally insufficient to fully understand it), but what I can tell you is that these drawings originate with the Chokwe people in southwestern Africa, specifically Angola and the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The drawings are told in conjunction with a story, and the goal of most is to draw them in as unbroken a line. Please check out some of the resources below, and if you have others to add, I’d love to see them and link them here.

As you can see, I made a number of mistakes in doing these. I wanted to leave those mistakes in because I think it’s important, as a teacher, to model making mistakes, and also because I want you to appreciate the challenge of some of these drawings. To draw in a wholly unbroken line is not always an obvious task.

All of the drawings I did here were highlighted in the articles I found – not yet confident enough to create my own images, although this is absolutely a thing I’ll return to when I’m done.

Click to access EllisMathematicsofSona.pdf

Click to access sona_african_sand_drawing_ebooklet_2.pdf


#MathArtChallenge Day 70: Spinning Heptagon

The Challenge: This is a modular origami (7 squares) spinning top.

Materials needed: 7 squares of paper. Any paper will do, it doesn’t need to be origami paper.

I got instructions from here, but that only worked on my phone – not computer. If it doesn’t work for you, follow the link to my tweet above, and I tried to there give some photo instructions.

#MathArtChallenge Day 68: Unknotting Number

The Challenge:


Materials needed: whiteboard?, pencil/paper?


#MathArtChallenge Day 67: Circular Celtic Grid

The challenge: To create this circular grid and then design using it.

Materials needed: Compass OR Desmos geometry.

Instructions are here: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/geometric-design-a-celtic-grid–cms-24560

If you don’t have a compass, you could print out this pdf from my Desmos geometry construction:

#MathArtChallenge Day 66: Venn Diagrams

The challenge: Create a complete (all 16 spaces) 4 set venn diagram.

Materials needed: Pencil, paper

Then, follow this to see some pretty spectacular math.

#MathArtChallenge Day 65: Penrose Triangle

The Challenge: Create a penrose triangle.

Materials needed: Pencil, paper, etc.

#MathArtChallenge Day 64: Anamorphic Raintangle (from woollythoughts.com)

The challenge: Create a rainbow and get it reflected in a curved surface to reveal a rectangle. All credit here to Woolly Thoughts! (They have wonderful things for you to play with there.)

Materials needed: I crocheted mine, which was a fun puzzle to get an even rainbow. They have knitting instructions on their website, but you could just as easily draw this with markers. I used tinfoil as my reflective surface wrapped around a nail polish remover bottle. I bet you all get more creative than myself.