Possibilities shaped by constraints of arithmetic

This website highlights two connected activities transformed into a remote format during the pandemic in 2020:

  • Math and the Creative Process:
    an undergraduate course
  • The course helps students develop skills to explore and communicate about math.

  • Creativity Counts:
    an exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
  • The course culminates in a final project to be shared broadly with non-experts.

    Math and Creativity???

    Like dancers explore movements within the limits of the human body or visual artists explore manipulations within the constraints of their chosen media, mathematicians explore possibilities shaped by the laws of mathematics. Aesthetic aspects of number theory, an area illustrated in most of the pieces in the gallery, have enthralled mathematicians since antiquity. For over 2000 years, fascinating patterns and beguiling mysteries alone accounted for number theory’s allure.

    More recently, number theory has become important for its applications. In the 1970s, R. Rivest, A. Shamir, and L. Adleman realized that certain centuries-old ideas (featured in several pieces here) could solve a timeless problem: How can you send secret messages? If you click the lock icon in a website’s address bar, followed by "Show Certificate," you often see the eponymous "RSA" or its successor "ECC," applications of number theory that enable secure communication.

    Modern computing power has also enabled new visual insights into old topics. Some of the gallery's pieces reveal phenomena only recently detected. What solutions might be hiding there, awaiting discovery?


    This project (originally conceived for an in-person setting, but since adapted to a remote format) is supported by the Williams Fund and National Science Foundation CAREER Grant DMS-1751281.