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Book Review: Making Mathematics with Needlework: Ten Papers and Ten Projects by sarah-marie belcastro

Making Mathematics with Needlework: Ten Papers and Ten Projects by sarah-marie belcastro (Author, Editor), Carolyn Yackel (Editor).

This is an interesting book.  If you’re a teacher, or interested in teaching, especially mathematics, and you’re also a craft-oriented person, this will definitely appeal to you.

The book has a lengthy introduction regarding fiber arts and math education.  It’s then divided into 10 chapters, each discussing a particular mathematical concept and a fiber arts project.  The “needlework” of the title is not just knitting;  there’s 1 chapter with quilting, 1 with crochet, 1 with cross stitch (and another with Blackwork embroidery), and 1 with sewing.

That leaves five chapters with various knit projects, which include a hat (picking up stitches and Diophantine equations); a torus (a ring/doughnut shape); socks (discussing modular arithmetic); sweaters (mathematical analysis of cables and braids), baby pants (topology and curvature).

I especially liked the chapter on tori;  there was an in depth exploration of stitch architecture and its impact on the resulting fabric.

The cross stitch chapter has applications to knitting, if you are interested in colorwork and repeating patterns;  the chapter discusses symmetry in patterns.

Though I don’t think it’s a book every knitter will want on their shelf, it is very well done.  The illustrations, diagrams and photos (as you would expect from a text book, which this really seems to be) are clear and abundant.  Regarding the patterns, I imagine that the mathematical concept was decided upon first, then the project created to illustrate that concept.

sarah-marie’s webpage is here; she includes many links to other pages of interest, including more math-based and other science-based projects.

I checked this book out from the Los Angeles Public Library.

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