Math can be poetic

posted in: Homeschool & Parenting | 11

I was good at arithmetic in school (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), but I never had a mathematical mind. I struggled through algebra. I don’t retain dates or phone numbers well, despite my good memory. When a friend decided to major in math, I didn’t understand it. How boring, dry, difficult, cold!

I’ve changed my opinion since homeschooling. D and M have the Rossini affinity for numbers. They’re interest ignites mine. But beyond that, I’ve learned that math can be beautiful!

I first heard the term poetic math in this article from Mater at Magistra. Author Lesley Payne says that math, like literature, can ” instill in our children awe toward the beautiful, poetic aspects of creation.”  Scientists use math to discover laws of nature. So shouldn’t lovers of beauty appreciate math as well?

Math, poetry and patterns

One thing that transformed my view on math was thinking about it in terms of patterns, not numbers. Joseph’s coat, patchwork quilts, and even poems have patterns. In fact, we used all of these to include math in our unit on Joseph and His Brothers.

The simplest nursery rhyme has a pattern, a rhyme scheme that could as easily be called 1-2-1-2 as a-b-a-b. Shakespeare’s sonnets have meter. Haiku is especially mathematical.

Greg Tang has written several books of poetry, riddles, and fables containing math. Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems  by Lee Bennett Hopkins is another gem. (Yes, you can buy them all in the homeschool section of my store at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network).

Resources that will help you fall in love with math

Here is a spattering of other resources I love:

Living Math seeks to “close the gap between math and history, science, literature and humanity created by the isolated way we traditionally approach math education.” Julie Brennan has volumes of free material on her website, plus curriculum you can purchase.

For parents’ enrichment, artist David Clayton talks about the numbers 7 and 8 in the liturgy

Then there is the video, which I could watch all day–and it’s math! Use this for your studies of the Golden Mean, the law of thirds, or patterns in nature in general.

This evening, J was carefully descending the steps on his feet, a skill he is just learning, saying, “That’s one stairs, that’s two stairs, that’s three stairs…”  To which I replied mentally, That’s poetic math!

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Do you have any great sources for poetic math? Feel free to link to your own or others’ blogs in the comments.

11 Responses

  1. Theresa

    I will have to check out the Marvelous Math book…it looks great.

    Do you have new widget for the Catholic Spirituality blog site? The one I have still links to here.

  2. Nancy

    Where were you when I was in 8th grace crying over Algebra and being scolded about not getting it? Oh yeah, you weren’t yet born.

    I love the video. I am hugely embarrassed to admit that I don’t really understand it, but I love it. It seems to appeal to the “poet” in me. I even plan to watch it again.

    • Connie Rossini

      I knew you’d love the video. I don’t understand it all either, but I’d like to, which is a real change for me over the last decade or so. It makes me want to worship the Creator of this well-ordered world.

  3. Susan


    I think you would enjoy this YouTube video about Fibonacci numbers.

    This is Part 1 of three. You can find the links to Parts 2 and 3 below this video. (Fibonacci numbers were at the beginning of the video you posted.)


    • Connie Rossini

      I finally got to watching this. To tell you the truth, it’s a little fast-moving for me. I have a hard time getting into videos that seem intent on moving at the speed of light. I’d prefer half the information in the same amount of time. But I am fascinated by Fibonacci numbers.

Share your thoughts with us.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.