In 2015 through my online college, I took a required general education math course on math concepts for which I chose thinking I could maybe get through that seeing how horribly I did in math in my high school years. That most math above the basics was something to avoid and something appearing too foreign like a lost prehistoric language with strange and cryptic symbols.
Ahem…All you math geniuses out there, please humor me and follow me through this post.
How naive I was to think math concepts would be easier. So many of these concepts I’d never heard of before, but by week two, I was to choose one for my final 10-page paper on this concept.
This discovery caused me great anxiety, and I wrung my hands and shed tears of fear and panic allowing these scary unfamiliar math theories and formulas to balloon up to a major overwhelming hurdle over which I didn’t believe I could jump.
I beseeched my advisor that perhaps it had been a mistake to take this class, and really, I needed to go back to square one and take a basic algebra class first before my brain could wrap itself around any of these heady applications.
But alas, I’d missed the window to withdrawal from the course and with a gulp and shaky body, I braced myself for the onslaught of cryptic, confusing, symbolic hell.
By week two, I was introduced to the Fibonacci sequence, and immediately, my mind was blown. The same numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) found on pinecones were found on other objects in nature, such as flower petals and the nautilus. Yes, I’m sure you all already knew this, but for me, this was all new and fascinating!
Cool video by Khan Academy on the Fibonacci Sequence:
(credit to Khan Academy)
There was a dark, cobwebbed, spongy crevice in my brain that opened up like the detachable hood off of a convertible, and God’s universe glistened bright and infinitely vast before me. The mathematical number sequence and how it joined with nature screamed the hands of God, for nothing perfect in this world can be accidental or just be. Something perfect has to be created by Someone Perfect–God.
Suddenly, math had taken on a totally different view for me, and I liked it.
Reading over and looking up the meaning of the list of math concepts in which we students were to choose from, I finally chose the knot theory because it sounded less scary and perhaps even something my simple, elementary math brain could comprehend.
So, for the next few weeks, in between weekly assignments, I read the history of knot theory, its formulas, how it’s used in life, and watched videos of professors teaching the knot theory by scribbling many different knots on the chalk board and explaining the negative and positive integers used in them. Frankly, I enjoyed watching those lectures!
While researching how the knot theory is used in life, such as in our DNA and mountain climbing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in art, and not just any art, art by sculptor, John Robinson.
The first one shown above titled Immortality, sculpted in 1982, resembles a trefoil knot. The meaning behind this great work of art is profound and beautiful. He created this trefoil to represent the three generations of his family, he being the oldest of the three. It shows the continuous movement and connection through time, becoming infinite. Robinson said, “I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind. I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey, but also the scroll of which all life’s experiences (DNA) is recorded.”
In the second picture, his sculpture, Rhythm of Life, was also done in 1982. When creating this piece, he had wrapped a ribbon around an inner tire tube. The last wrap was the fourth time around, and it returned to its original starting point. Ronnie Brown, an English mathematician, had explained that this happens in Torus knots in math. Robinson said, “I created the sculpture about the time that the miracle of DNA had just been discovered, and for me, this delightful flowing ribbon summed up the continuity of Genes. I found I could balance the 18-inch maquette on a single point.”
Through this math course that was called The Heart of Math, I truly learned there was a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul and beauty. It may have taken decades for me to have found an appreciation for math via this class, but I’m just grateful I did discover it.
Symbolic Sculpture: The Collected Works of John Robinson. (n.d.). Rhythm of Life. Symbolic Sculpture: The Collected Works of John Robinson. Retrieved from