Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Channeling Tana Hoban: Juxtaposition Edition

When my kid was a preschooler, I used to stare wistfully at the Tana Hoban books at the library.  Because my kid rarely liked any stories outside of a narrative context, I knew there was no way she'd sit down with me to take a closer look.  Turns out, the thing I love more than looking at Tana Hoban's work is pretending to be Tana Hoban.

It sort of just happened, but the best things are like that, I think.  The plan was to do 'cheetah training' at the Y and then explore campus on an extraordinary morning full of sun and blue.   We completed the first part of the plan and started the second.  We really had no agenda but then things started catching our eyes.  The first one was the building with the intricately carved limestone decorations and the round tower four stories high.  What would it be like inside?  Should we go explore?  Yes!

Here's something we saw on the outside of the building:

Turns out that if it's round on the outside, it's round on the inside, too.  How do you lay square tiles in a curve?

And the view from the round tower was just as round.

After a full exploration of Maxwell Hall (including an incredible ten foot limestone fireplace and a very mysterious and steep spiral staircase) we decided to continue our explorations outside.  The funny thing was that, even though we've spent a lot of time on this part of campus, we kept seeing things we'd never seen before...

Like hexagons!  Gorgeous ones!

Teeny tiny squares in a grid, inside a circle!

Hexagons in circle, around a pentagon!

A basket weave of parallel lines, in a circle!

A drain with wavy, curvy lines!

My personal favorite, a tessellation of rhombuses!  You don't see too many rhombuses out in the wild like this. 

Then it was time to got back to our car and go home for lunch.  On the way, we found even more designs, especially ones that expanded from a center point into a circle.

Flowers, too.

Concentric circles.  "And stars!"

A curve through the squares. 

And more.

So much wonderful design in this modest drain.

Trash can.

"Look Mama! More circles!"  Notice, more curves.  So lovely.

My favorite thing was finding shapes within shapes and especially so many different kinds of patterns with both straight and curved lines. This is a great example of what Maria Drujkova of Natural Math calls 'growing your math eyes.'  Once you've got 'em you see math everywhere!

If we go 'out looking' again, I'm going to pack two cameras, and some paper and crayons for making rubbings. 


  1. I love Tana Hoban, too. You make a great imposter!

  2. I love those pictures. What a neat spontaneous idea. We haven't done this specifically, but here are my examples of math patterns from our trip to Prague.

  3. Those sidewalks are cool! At first I saw the squares, but then the triangle emerged. I love this kind of geometric design -- thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Great post, Malke!


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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