Math Encounters: Craig Kaplan on Math and Art

Published by patrick honner on

Craig Kaplan’s Math Encounters talk, “Revolution and Evolution in Math and Design,” was a whirlwind tour of the design space that lies at the intersection of computer science, mathematics, technology, and art.   Kaplan, a professor of computer science at Waterloo university, is an innovative software engineer, an accomplished artist, and a passionate and engaging speaker.  His talk wove together the mathematical and cultural history of Islamic art, tilings of the plane, non-Euclidean geometries, and the mathematics of aesthetics.

The Math Encounters series, sponsored by the Museum of Mathematics, strives to bring mathematics to the public through dynamic speakers, meaningful topics, and engaging interactivity.  In that spirit, after the talk Kaplan and George Hart led a fun, collaborative workshop where the audience teamed up to create a work of art themselves!

Using some tape, some scissors, and some clever mathematics, each group turned their table into a “tile” using the techniques Kaplan covered in his talk.

And as each group finished their “tiles”, we started putting them all together!

It was a fun and fitting end to an inspiring and mind-opening evening!  You can learn more about Craig Kaplan and his work at his webpage.

Categories: ArtTeaching

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


JBL · January 9, 2012 at 9:44 am

Looks reminiscent of some of the gorgeous stuff in the Met galleries on Islamic art.

    MrHonner · January 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Exactly. Kaplan has designed and built technology so he can explore an artistic space inspired by Islamic art. It’s brilliant, inspiring stuff.

Kim · January 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I would be very interested in getting information on the technique Kaplan used. This is something I would love to incorporate in my Art class as a class project.

MrHonner · January 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Kaplan’s art and explorations cover a wide range of mathematical and aesthetic ideas, and he designs the software himself. I’d recommend looking into his work (both art and technology), or contacting him through his website for more information.

This book is a good place to start exploring the geometry of islamic art:

Laura Haeberle · January 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Wow, that seems like a fascinating talk! Kaplan sounds like a brilliant man. I’m wondering if the table activity could be used for young students, as well. I could see it being done in an Elementary classroom, to help teach patterns and show more of a creative, artistic side to math!

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