Saturday, February 28, 2015

Creativity of Palestinian math teachers

Yes, I am here - in Palestine, where I am teaching History of Mathematics and Vector Analysis in Palestinian Technical University - Kadoorie. Besides teaching these two courses I am working with students in creating exhibit about mathematics which hopefully will grow into something larger and more permanent. 
Today I was in Nablus and saw this:

It reminded me that I still owe this blog post to all creative and passionate teachers I met on our trip to five schools near and in Tulkarem. We were welcomed very sincerely with traditional Arabic coffee, homemade bread, juice, tea, sweets - something like that in every school. But most importantly - we had a chance to see wonderful exhibits made y teachers and their students in order to make mathematics more colorful and fun. I tried to take as much pictures as I could, not all of them came out well but I hope they captured the creative spirit in teaching mathematics. From five schools we visited, four were girls schools and one small one was co-ed. 
Mathematics becomes a fun when you can play with it. Students who were demonstrating us how to play these learning games were very confident and clearly enjoyed this playful approach to learning.
But these games teaches not only mathematics - they are all created from what would be considered trash - this is all very creative recycling that teaches students that things could and should be re-used. Recently one of our university hosts asked me if there is anything I do not like in his country. And I quickly replied - yes. Perhaps, too quickly because he looked at me quite surprised. I explained - what I do not like here is enormous amount of trash almost everywhere. What I cannot grasp is that people here are so passionate about Palestine at the same time tolerate their beloved land covered in trash. I think that keeping your homeland clean must be a part of patriotism.
I was very happy to see how students and teachers put a lot of efforts to re-use plastic bottles, jars, coffee cups, plastic silverware etc.

Here is a game where you spin two wheels then calculate result and that is where your colored cup will go on the board.
Good use of velcro to demonstrate formula of the area of the circle

This girl was ready to recite for us 400 digits of pi. 
The numbers on this "calculator" are glued on plastic water bottles.
Another use of water bottles to demonstrate how to solve simple equations. (we were visiting mostly elementary schools.)
Some examples of students geometric artwork.
Another way to solve an equation.

Wedding cake? No, illustration of number sets - the bottom is real numbers.
Another way to solve equations.
Greater, smaller or equal?

Which angle is which?
This is larger project students were working on - the school got a little extra piece of land, (which is really good news because most of the schools had almost no yard or very little one); and students are building scale model how they are going to use this land, doing all measurements, planning and calculation. 

No need to explain this ;-)
some  like the math to be illuminated
This is for me - for learning arabic numerals from 1 to 100. Remember - it all starts in bottom right corner...
Another project - building farm from geometric shapes

what is function?
I like to show this magic trick to my audiences but here it was on display.
triangles with the same base and same height have the same area.
of these trig functions - but this is very helpful tool.
I did not know this trick how to remember sin and cos values for these angles!
do you recognize Pascal triangle?

David and I were accompanied by very nice people from Education Department who really care about the education in this area.
Equations and the real life
These girls were playing math game during their break.
Thank you for such warm welcome and great math exhibit! 
The most successful exhibit was were math and art teachers worked together. This school is very lucky to have talented art teacher. Wouldn't it be great to have walls only for murals like these?

I do hope that this wall one day in not so far future will be gone. For now it is what David and I see when we turn towards Mediterranean sea which is only 12 km from Tulkarem if you get through this wall. This wall also has cut off part of university campus which is here seen from the wall side. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My fiber year 2014

My fiber year started in Riga with the opening Riga 2014 - European Culture Capital about which I wrote in January. Now the year is over, so I will make the final notes of it.
The biggest event was my exhibit in Riga October 3 - November 9. Right bellow Stalin era tower in the following picture are the restored warehouses. (sorry for the quality of the photo - it was taken from 21st floor of new national Library that is on other side of the river. Unfortunately the view is obstructed with little black dots on window glass...)

one of the restored buildings houses contemporary art gallery kim? - the name is abbreviation of question kas ir māksla ? - what is art?

When I first arived in Riga in September there was still this colorful snail near the gallery (these snails in different colors where in several places in the city) In Riga artists had an interesting way of showing that the creation of the Museum of Contemporary Arts is moving at the tempo of the snail. By the end of the year good news were that finally place for it is chosen and some private foundation has donated money to start building.
The exhibit started with laying out works and finding the best places for them.

Then two opposite walls were painted black and a black carpet installed.
After careful measuring works found their places.
And finally the text appeared under them.
I had delivered all my works but the big pink one by myself. The big pink came by TNT shipping company. If you can avoid using their services - do! It took me five days to get in contact with them about picking it up in Ithaca - finally it was suggested that they will pick it up on the day I was leaving between 12 and 5. Since my plane was at 5:15 I just took the big box myself to FedEx office which was responsible for getting  it to TNT in New Jersey. Then it took two weeks to get it in the other end after the box had already arrived in Riga. How? Of course, I went myself to pick it up in the TNT office near the airport. It was two days before the opening of the show and it was the last piece to be hanged in the middle of the room. 
The opposite wall of the rest of the works was the blackboard on which I drew pictures to explain hyperbolic geometry.
There was also a little shelf with the sign - please touch! so that people can have tactile experience of the properties of the hyperbolic plane. Some people managed to have too tactile experience, so several times I was repairing "drawings" by threading back pulled out yarn but it was minor.
In the front room the biggest challenge was to install "White Cloud". About 200 crocheters had submitted their pieces, so the installation was going to be heavy.
With helpers the hanging of the whole thing took 5 hours.
But finally it was done! Around the edges we had the largest pieces. Some of them were mine, some were submitted by passionate crocheters and I just worked some support around them. Some submitted pieces were very small so I combined them in groups.
Just before the opening the lights were installed and the whole piece appeared to be amazing.
On one of the walls there was a map of the network - it also looks like the pattern of the hyperbolic plane - those are names of all crocheters and it shows connections.
And then came October 3rd - the official opening of the exhibit. Here I am with the curator of the exhibit Rasa Šmite, representative from Riga 2014 Aiva Rozenberga, and scenographer Rudolfs Bekic.
I am here with a crocheter who submitted the largest pieces.
I was happy to see many special guests at the opening.

The week after the opening was very busy giving interviews for press and TV. I had 7 TV's coming. I think the cameraman of TV "Čaula" was the most interesting - I took it as a great compliment that this exhibit can be of the interest also to unusual people.

In my previous post I provided links to various media coverage. This filming was for the documentary about Latvian Contemporary art and it was happening at the very end of the exhibit when doors closed and we were taking everything down.
It was sad to see the White Cloud go.

During five weeks of the exhibit it had about 2300 visitors and across all ages, male and female. Four afternoons on Tuesdays I had tea time when people could come, crochet and chat with me. I was surprised about the popularity of them - originally expecting about 10-15 coming, I had every time about 40 but the last one was 102! I also had one Saturday workshop for children when we had a lot of fun. Tuesday October 21st was our Celebration of Mind event - it was Martin Gardner's 100th anniversary, so we were talking about Math, Magic, and Mystery. 
I had lots of nice interactions with my viewers. And some gave me good advices. One of the great advises was not to miss Riho Toomra exhibit.
If sometimes people are expressing wonder about my patience of crocheting, I can tell you - that is nothing compared with the stamina and patience needed to execute these large knitted lace pieces.

Another exhibit I saw in Riga was by Edīte-Pauls Vīgnere . When I was growing up she was well known for her beautiful large textiles. To celebrate her 75th birthday she decided to make 75 "head decors" - most of them with people close to her in mind. Like this hat was called Maestro - in Latvia everybody instantly recognizes that it is for her brother - composer Raimonds Pauls

Soon after coming back to Ithaca I was on my way to New York - reopening of Cooper-Hewitt.
It is between this beautiful origami fabric
and Isaye Miyake origami dress.
From my first unexpected art exhibit in 2005 hyperbolic plane, idea born in 1997, has made it to the design museum. I feel now I can concentrate on something else. I felt that that was great end of my fiber year but apparently it was not yet end. At Christmas time I was visiting my daughter in Boston, and she reminded me not to miss the exhibit  Fibers: from 1960 to today at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Waterfront.

Here is a Review of the exhibit in Boston Magazine.

This really was amazing year in fibers. Next one will be very different but that will be another topic.