Art and Design in Mathematics - Conclusion

Judy Holdener

Mathematicians often judge the merits of a lesson by its mathematical content. We are impressed by a well-crafted presentation of an elegant proof, and we enjoy the pathological examples that follow, illustrating the necessity of the hypotheses.

As teachers of introductory level courses, however, we should remember that our students are not (usually) mathematicians. Our students do not always share the same intrigue that we have for the formal aspects of our subject. We should judge the merits of a lesson or project based on the mathematical content learned by the student and the extent to which the lesson or project inspires the student to pursue mathematics further. In my experience, design projects have been very successful in these regards.

While it might take a bit more effort on our part, we can do more to inspire students so that they recognize mathematics as a playground for creative thought. While these design projects might not capture the same type of creative play typically involved in a mathematical proof, they certainly do involve creative play. For students, this creative play results in mathematical understanding, and student understanding is our ultimate goal as teachers.

Figure 3.Tile designs by Katie Capaldi (top), Bethany Taylor and Jack Cerchiara (bottom).