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Clare Johnson

Clare Johnson

BS, Mathematics
Spring Hill College

MA Mathematics
Duquesne University

PhD Mathematics Education
Columbia University

Professor of Mathematics
Fashion Institute of Technology

I teach mathematics at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which is part of the State University of New York. My students receive Associate (2 year) and Bachelor (4 year) degrees in Art & Design, or in Business & Technology. I prefer teaching students in Art & Design, as the matheamtics courses they take are more visual than the skills-based courses the Business & Technology students take. Most of the students at F.I.T. have weak skills and a fear of mathematics. It is fun for me to try to make math accessible to them. They can relate to subjects like the golden ratio, Penrose tiles, knots and mazes, fractals, etc. In analyzing and quantifying shapes, they use logical powers they never knew they had. These logical analyses are used along with their propensity for design.

Teaching Art and Design students at a college for fashion-related studies is very different from teaching at a liberal arts college. To begin with, the students at F.I.T. are dressed in all sorts of imaginative attire, from leather to silk. There are no liberal arts majors. Faculty in Liberal Arts must work hard to find ways to pique students' interest. Teaching these courses the traditional way is guaranteed to lose students' interest.

Under a National Science Foundation grant I developed curriculum for the Art and Design student titled "Geometry and the Art of Design." The 5 major categories in the curriculum are: symmetry, phi and Fibonacci, tiling, polyhedra, and topology. The curriculum is designed to unite the students' creativity with logical processes and to show that mathematics does relate to and can enhance design.

I believe that my artistic background has given me an affinity to this career. For many years I was a dancer and a musician. Currently I play the double bass, playing in community orchestras, in amateur chamber music groups, and with my husband who is a jazz musician.

I gave many lecture-demos at mathematics conferences, showing how music and dance relate to mathematics. My performing arts background has given me a love for relating the arts to mathematics along with helping make me (I hope) a more interesting teacher.

Currently I am chairperson of the Science and Mathematics Department at F.I.T. and do little teaching. This position is more managerial than artistic. Having a math background ensures good problem-solving skills, which is what a manager needs. But I believe that in addition to problem-solving skills, having a variety of interests is of equal importance. I strongly recommend a liberal arts background for any career, including a career in mathematics. No career is uni-faceted. A varied background helps enable a person to deal with the multi-facets of a career.

I am an artist, teacher, and manager. I enjoy my work because I can bring my talents in these three areas to what I do.