#MathArtChallenge Day 75: Black Lives Matter

People keep asking how they can help. So here are some ways you can help.

  1. First, please say out loud with me right now, “Black Lives Matter.” Don’t just tweet it, say it out loud where ever you are. Believe it.
  2. Please do not ask any person of color to do the work for you. That includes putting the onus on them to figure out how you can help.


3. If you are white, talk with your people: your family, your co-workers, your neighbors. It may get uncomfortable, but it is not as uncomfortable as being Black in America. And again, in those spaces, do not put the weight of the work on the people of color. If you hear something along the lines of, “but the protests are so destructive”, point them to the many examples of peaceful protests. Then remind them that peaceful protests have been tried. Colin Kaepernick’s kneel was peaceful. Then, point them to this thread and article which documents many, many, many instances of the police escalating and inciting violence.

4. You can donate to help out at these organizations:

5. And here is an EXCELLENT list of resources to help support the Minneapolis Protests.

6. You can call Mike Freeman, the DA responsible for bringing charges to the police officers. (612) 348-5550

This is a partial and small list. But if you do any #mathartchallenge do this one. I’d love for you to add any additional suggestions in the comments.

Black Lives Matter.


#MathArtChallenge Day 74


I really cannot promise I’ll continue with the #mathartchallenge. May be a break, may be a stop. It’s pretty jarring to see things not related to #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd on my timeline right now.

I want to acknowledge: I am perfectly safe. I am participating in the peaceful protests – mostly outside Mike Freeman’s house. I was there for about an hour while protestors gathered today. Cars came in and parked in the street. People flooded in, asking for the arrest of all 4 officers. Each time it was totally peaceful.
I am trying to support my students from afar- the pandemic hasn’t ended. Today, there is a #mathartchallenge because a student invited me to a walk by grad party, and that’s a chance for me to set eyes on someone I care about to show that I care for them. Not having cards, I made this to give to them.

Art does help give me space to process. If that’s the case for you, I’m glad to help you find things for that.

Below is a link to instructions. You’ll have to do some figuring out.


#MathArtChallenge Day 73: More Islamic Design

I tend to treat math art a bit like meditation & it helps to calm me down when I’m stressed or struggling. Last night, I could hear helicopters and smell smoke – please know that I am fine – several miles away from what’s happening in Minneapolis. But I couldn’t sleep, so I got up to make some tea and watched this video from Samira Mian with plans to create it myself in the morning. Didn’t fix everything that’s happening, of course, but helped me to calm down enough to sleep.

You only need one circle and the rest is straight edge work. Samira uses tracing paper, but you can easily just color the creation you make without transferring it to watercolor paper.


#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.