Bard Events Calendar

Mathematics Program Presents

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Kolams: Mathematical Thinking in a South Indian Art Form
Hegeman 204
12:00 pm
Sunita Vatuk, City College of NY
"It is notoriously hard to give a satisfactory answer to the question, 'What is mathematics?'" —Timothy Gowers

"One proposal, made in desperation, is 'What mathematicians do.'" —Ian Stewart

This women's art form is not part of academic research mathematics, and most of the experts in it are not formally educated, but the kolam-maker and the mathematician do share many patterns of thought. The range of mathematical connections found in kolams make it a particularly rich arena in which to explore that elusive definition of mathematics, by focusing on mathematical thinking outside of academia.

Dr. Vatuk has a PhD in differential geometry from Princeton University. As part of her teaching at University of Colorado (Boulder), Rutgers University (Piscataway), and City University of NY she has worked extensively with high school math teachers. That work sparked an interest in the existence and nature of mathematical thinking outside of research mathematics, including, but not limited to, origami and textile production. This talk is based on over 80 interviews with kolam experts and hundreds of designs she learned as a Fulbright scholar affiliated with the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai.

For more information, call 845-758-6822, or e-mail

Time: 12:00 pm

Location: Hegeman 204