Public Math

Public Math
Saint Paul, MN, USA

Public Math supports positive math identities through projects that engage children, families, and adults in playful, creative mathematics as they go about their daily lives. We collaborate with teachers, parents, children, and others to upend harmful ideas about who does mathematics, what counts as mathematics, and the purposes to which mathematical thinking is put.

An important theme engaged in this work is the relationship between playful, creative math and school math. Does children's engagement with authentic mathematical inquiry matter if it doesn't have a demonstrated effect on test scores or school grades? To whom might it matter and why? Does it matter whether children's math creations end up being called "mathematics"?

Is It Complete? Children's Solutions to The Hexagon Challenge
70 x 50 cm
Digital print

The Hexagon Challenge consists of a set of colorful wooden polygons of five types and a hexagonal frame. The challenge is to fill the frame with the polygons and to find new arrangements. The original challenge was posed at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair, where children produced about 230 unique solutions which we captured with an instant camera and translated into a digital medium. In 2021, children expanded that solution set so that it now numbers 336.

This artwork consists of a print showing all of these solutions, organized to be searchable and to encourage pattern seeking and noticing.

This artwork reports progress on an unsolved combinatorial geometry problem, and represents an attempt at proof by child or proof through play.