I wish math art was a big part of my math education when I was a kid. It’s not that I was bad at math. On the contrary, I did quite well in math, but that’s just because I was good at remembering the rules. Being able to physically make some math would have rendered it far more interesting, though, and perhaps math would have lingered as something I wanted to pursue instead of leave behind as a series of boring tests.
Have you ever made a Mobius strip? It’s a simple thing to make, but it will blow your (and your kids’) minds. In case you don’t know what it is, here’s what you do: take a strip of paper. Fasten the ends together, but give the paper a little twist first.
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Take your finger (or use a pen), and run it along one side of the strip. Follow it all around, and you’ll find that you end up on the opposite side of the paper, without having lifted your finger (pen) up off the paper. That one little twist turns the strip into what is called a nonorientable surface.
That’s as mathy as I will get here, because this hurts my brain:
As if the regular Mobius strip weren’t cool enough, grab a pair of scissors, and cut it lengthwise, all around the strip. This is what you get:
Is that not mind-boggling? One big loop! This loop contains 2 twists. But don’t stop there; cut this strip down the middle and get…
…which is 2 strips, each with 2 full twists.
Don’t stop cutting! It’s still wide enough to cut!
Not sure what this is, but it’s fun to throw it around in the air and pretend it is a monster.
The work of M.C. Escher is always a favorite with kids because of the optical illusions he wove into his pieces. Check out his 2 works based directly on Mobius strips:
Moebius Strip I
wood engraving and woodcut
photo credit: wikipaintings.org
Moebius Strip II (Red Ants)
Woodcut printed from three blocks
photo credit: Artchive.com