Photo Credit Lew Kopp
Making geometry more experiential than theoretical
January 26, 2017

Mathematics – in this case, specifically geometry – was once again more experiential than theoretical for Culver students when a science lab became a temporary art studio and numbers on paper became a three-dimensional work of beauty.

For the fifth year in a row, students collaborated to create a “mathematically correct chandelier.” Visiting instructor Hans Schepker, of Harrisville, N.H., spent three days on campus, this time assisting students in creating “The Dis-Appointed Stellated Dodecahedron.” This is Schepker’s ninth visit to Culver.

An unusual addition this year is a special workshop offered at Schepker’s New Hampshire studio aimed to coincide with Culver’s spring break in March. While the workshop is open to anyone and not formally a collaboration with Culver, Schepker and his wife, Marcy, both of whom hold visiting faculty positions at the Monadnock Waldorf School, intend the event to also welcome Culver students to their home and studio.

Students work on their individual sections during class.

Students work on their individual sections during class.

Culver math instructor Sandra Reavill noted this year’s major assembly internship included eight CGA students.

“We loved that there were so many interested girls this time,” she explained. “Girls are often underrepresented in STEM internships but the CGA leadership realized that girls were just as interested as boys and helped us create a space that welcomed them.”

At the New Hampshire intensive, students will have the opportunity to design their own piece “from start to finish,” says Reavill, as opposed to using Schepker’s pre-cut materials (necessary due to the relatively brief period of time he’s on campus).

“Even though we can’t directly link (the project) to a numerical skill demonstrated on a test,” explained Reavill, “what this kind of work does is tweak open that place in the mind where…the brain can work on the properties of a figure and play with the structure of mathematics.”

Mathematical exercises, she adds, were designed with reference to mathematical structures like this one, with projects dovetailing nicely to give students an opportunity to both look for, and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

“So to give students the opportunity to walk around inside this figure,” Reavill said, “they can not only contemplate what it looks like from the outside and why it’s named what it is, but also (understand) the descriptors in its name, and what they mean.”

The sustainability aspect of re-using materials to create new geometric student art – and careful pre-measuring to avoid any unnecessary waste – is an added benefit, she added.

Reavill points to past creations sold at Culver’s Live the Legacy Parents Auction and then donated back to the school. Two such pieces are exhibited in the Dicke Hall of Mathematics. Four other prior pieces are “hanging proudly,” noted Reavill, in the homes of friends and alumnae of Culver.

The Dis-Appointed Stellated Dodecahedron is available for any bid over $4,000, and will be offered in the spring parents auction this year, with the funds raised going back into the program.

And, she added with a smile, the ever-desirable Culver “C” can be added to the piece upon request.

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