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The Intersection of Mathematics and Fiber Arts

Workshop Spotlight | May 26, 2016

When it comes to teaching and understanding complex mathematical shapes, one engaging method is through hands-on, physical exploration. In the MƒA mini-course, “Knitting Mathematics: A Journey through Different Dimensions,” MƒA teachers knit and crocheted mathematical shapes that can be used as tools for solving mathematical problems.
The mini-course, which was facilitated by MƒA Master Teacher Dorota Caetano, explored the intrinsic mathematics that’s present in knitted objects and addressed the problems that arise in fiber arts that can be answered using mathematics. Over three sessions, MƒA teachers used their hands, knitting needles, and yarn to craft math-themed objects, including a tessellated plane, a Möbius band, a trefoil knot, a Klein bottle, and other two and three-dimensional objects. Through their work, participants saw these shapes come together from start to finish; the final products were physical representations of mathematical shapes that they could fully explore, both with their eyes and hands.

MƒA Master Teacher Courtney Ginsberg participated in the workshop and found new ways to implement the material into her classroom: “Knitting is a tactile way of learning. For my students who are struggling to see patterns with numbers, knitting is a way to help them recognize those patterns,” she said. “The knitting tasks provided me with hands-on models of complex shapes my students generally only read about or see pictures of in their textbooks, such as hyperbolic planes and 3D geometry.”
“Knitting Mathematics” has been a featured course in M­ƒA’s professional programming for two years now, and like many other of MƒA workshops, it is teacher-designed and facilitated. We trust that teachers know best when it comes to choosing what types of professional growth experiences they need to excel in their field, and we honor that by enabling MƒA teachers to suggest, develop, and facilitate a majority of our course offerings.