Thanks to Jacob Mohler for sharing this video with me. This call to embody mathematics comes from Satyan Devadoss, Fletcher Jones Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of San Diego. The video is from the 2018 Culture Care Summit, where the Fuller Theological Seminary Brehm Center director Mako Fujimura hosted a conversation on culture care in education, journalism, and more. Learn more about the Brehm Center here: www.brehmcenter.com.
I’ve written before about mathematics and beauty, and the relationship between mathematics and music. There is a deep connection between mathematics and the arts (even when being used as an educational analogy). I am always suspect of a student who tells me that they aren’t a math person (a phrase which I detest by the way…as if you have an excuse to under-perform in math because of your genes) but then I see them sketch a great piece of art or excel in band or on the dance team. Somewhere along the way they were misinformed that math and art are separate categories – one emphasizing logic and rigor and the other emphasizing creativity and personal expression. Any mathematician worth his weight in protractors can tell you that a great deal of creativity and personal expression is needed to be successful in mathematics.
Now I believe I have come across an artist who truly sees the benefits of mathematics. As a bonus, his work is also a very real expression of his Christian faith. It doesn’t get much better than that in my book.
From Douglas Peden’s Site:
I think of my paintings as visual music – tone poems that make use of mathematical, compositional, and other aesthetic relationships to call forth both intellectual and emotional responses. I enjoy that my art is inspired by such disciplines as music, literature, philosophy, mathematics, and the sciences, and the belief that the most enduring art encompasses all life. Indeed, if my painting style need be categorized in a historical context, it could be seen as an extension of Geometric Abstraction to Abstract Expressionism.
His description of the above painting, Transfiguration:
Though my painting “Transfiguration” grew out of a specific event, I feel it has many levels of meaning which touch our shared human experience. It is basically a painting of hope and faith. The specific event in question is the pain and horror of my wife’s cancer and the hope of a joyful conclusion, whether it be in the beauty of bodily healing or the painless union with God. In any event, I saw it as a transfiguration through human suffering and understanding… Again, let me stress that this is but one interpretation out of many – such as the pain, death, and resurrection of Christ or a personal experience of pain and understanding. It is my hope that others will see more, different, or deeper meanings. It was simply my intent to express the best I could, given my “all too human” limitations, the power and the poetry of our human faith and spirit regardless of our individual religious beliefs.
If you read my previous post, then you know that one of the problems with math education today (if not THE problem) is that people just don’t treat mathematics as an art form. Not only is mathematics a form of art, but so is teaching. Sadly, it seems that more and more steps are being taken to standardize curriculum and teaching methods.
Here are some great thoughts from the awesomely named blog Mathy McMatherson on the art of teaching:
Teaching is my favorite form of artistic creation, on par with the more traditional forms of art such as painting, poetry, or musical composition. These artists start with a blank canvas, an empty page, or dead air – we start with an open mind. We leave our impressions on our students with the lessons we conduct and the structure of our classroom – we carve out a space for learning and growth and, in the process, plant the seeds of knowledge, confidence, and leadership in our students.