Math and Art: Are They Connected?

"Maths" by AJC1 is licensed under Creative Commons

by Ethan Gathman

Do math and art go together? Can math be creative? It’s a question that you’ve might’ve never considered before and now that it’s in your head, you might have a strong and personal answer.

But perhaps this question deserves more reflection. Can math be found anywhere within the creative/artistic process?

Shifra Adler, a math teacher at The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), thinks math is inherently a part of creativity.

“I think of math as being creative and this is a philosophical debate about whether math is creative or descriptive, or whether it’s about describing things out in the world or creating whole new things,” Adler said.

She went on: “‘Two’ doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as a ‘two’ in the world. You can have two things but that number two, that’s an abstract creation that people have made for ourselves.”

For Adler, math is first and foremost an abstract art form. She believes that because math is something humans have made for themselves, it should be respected as a legitimate creative activity.

In fact, teenagers are better at math than they have ever been before. According to The Atlantic, “A cadre of American teenagers are reaching world-class heights in math—more of them, more regularly, than ever before.” This may have something to do with this generation’s love for the arts, as Adler purports.

Adler believes that math is more than just an artistic practice; it’s a device that people have used throughout history to work towards major innovation. Because math is concrete, it has allowed people to talk about things in ways they never had before.

Adler adds, “Math is all about questions like, ‘Who are we as people? What is our place in this world? How do we put all of this together in a way that lets me make sense of new things?’”

Various students in ChiArts agree with the statement’s made by Adler. This includes Maria Allen-Cardona, a Creative Writer at ChiArts, who says: “Putting together a story is kind of like putting together a math problem. It’s like a puzzle in a very similar sense. Beginning plus middle plus end equals story. It can definitely get more complicated than that.”

But not everyone agrees with Adler.

Jupiter Dandridge, a sophomore at ChiArts, doesn’t think math and art go together at all. “Math is like this whole concept of steps and strategy. Whatever art you do, it flows from the brain. Math is like a train getting through a tight tunnel. Art is like a plane flying through the sky and air,” he said.

And the philosophical debate continues.

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