March 8, 2014
My daughter’s math class is working on logarithms. I have a special enthusiasm for logarithms. Every single thing about them appears to be overwhelmingly opaque and indecipherable. Everything. And the most awesome thing about them being so completely crushingly incomprehensible is that Mr. John Napier (1550 – 1617) invented this system was to make life exponentially easier for us. And he succeeded.
Now here’s another cool thing about logarithms. The spelling. No one confidently remembers how to spell this word. But there’s a trick to remembering.
The trick is to spelling logarithm is to notice that it starts with L O G (that’s the easy part) and ends with the most of arithmetic. No pun intended.
I’ve been experiencing something that I mistook for an internal tug-of-war: I like blogging about book arts, but my mind of late has been drawn to playing with ideas that seem to have more to do with math than with books. It’s been a dilemma, how to keep writing about book arts when my mind is elsewhere. Finally I’ve had an ah-ha moment: I had forgotten that what brought me to book arts in the first place was wanting to make visual sequences of images that were related to a simple equation.
The equation that drew me into making books is the one which starts with the number 2 and doubles, then doubles again, then doubles again and again. It takes eight pages of doubling to get from 2 to 256. I’m infatuated by the slow measured way the numbers increase until there’s this tipping point, when the quantities then erupt into unmanageable largeness. I had created maybe a dozen of these books, experimenting with using lines, circles, overlapping lines, droplets of paint ect. I bound these books in a most inefficient and cumbersome way. Eventually a friend pointed me in the direction of The Center for Book Arts in NYC and new part of my education began. I found the geometry of constructing books to be a satisfying, even sublime experience. And, since I didn’t really know any other intoxicating mathematical equations I just kept making books.
Now, many years later, my daughter is coming home with problems like the one pictured above. My son offered an insight on this kind of problem, one that I hadn’t thought of before. He said that the answer to this problem made no more sense to him that the problem itself. It’s tough to remember that these functions have a look to them, and that solving for x looks like something. A day or two after having this problem as part of a long, mind numbing homework assignment, my daughter came home and bemoaned that her teacher had just that day told them that the point of logarithms was to find exponents. She wanted to know why they weren’t told that in the first place, and what was the point of doing all those numerical gymnastics? We had quite the discussion about that. And it keeps me thinking about pictures.
February 14, 2014
Warm wishes from me to you on Valentine’s Day! It’s blustery and snowy here.
I’m hoping to get out and take some pictures of the storm and post them later on. But for now, I’m staying cozy inside, enjoying the morning with my daughter, my puppy and my coffee. Husband will be home after the snow settles down.
I’ve ventured out into the yard. The snow is up to my knees, but I found it hard to take pictures that conveyed just how much snow we have here.
The picnic table makes a good measurement table too.
Here’s a sort of before and after picture set:
Now I still have a few more Valentines to tend to….
I doubt that these will get into the mailbox today…but at least they will be done soon.
Then there will be time to relax with puppy….
February 7, 2014
Success! I had one classroom period to help Mario’s Mandarin students make a Japanese-style bound book.
I was nervous about teaching this class because I don’t think that I’ve ever taught Japanese binding. Since my daughter is a student in this class I especially wanted the outcome to be good.
This won’t be a step-by-step tutorial, but if you want one I suggest checking out http://beccamakingfaces.com/theory-of-japanese-stab-binding/ for lots instruction, history, and beautiful samples. Also, my last post has more details on how I designed this project.
The one bit of instruction that I do want to record here is the method I used to teach the sewing. First let me say that if you are already familiar with Japanese binding you will notice all sorts of ways that I deviate from traditional methods: the ways that I teach in classrooms are always modifications of classical techniques, otherwise projects would take longer than the time that I am allowed. And, yes, I am sometimes self-conscious about the ways that I wander.
SO! moving on here…First, I demonstrated making a simple running stitch, going in and out of the holes that were punched through the book. Making this running stitch is a simple concept to teach. To make the pattern on the edge so that it will look like the side pattern below, I told the students…
…nothing. That’s it. Nothing. I showed them the final look of the sewing and I asked them to work it out themselves, only telling them that they shouldn’t sew over any spot that already has sewing on it. This is a great way to instruct, and I do this sort of teaching more and more often, especially when the steps are easy to see but difficult to explain. Well, it worked like a charm, and each student was able to do the sewing much more quickly than I had projected. This was great, because it meant they had more time to decorate!
These are my daughter’s hands above. Her work space looks eerily similar to mine.
The students seemed to like having the origami papers and the symbol Fu, which I am told means luck or fortune, to glue onto their book covers. When the class period was over we cleaned up quickly, and I drove home slowly, as the snow from the day before was blown all over the roads.
Driving slowly was fine, as I could better take in the views.
February 5, 2014
My daughter’s Mandarin teacher and I came up with the idea spending one class period making Japanese-like bound books. Tomorrow is the day that I go in to work with his eight students of various ages. I thought that this would be an easy class to design: take some papers, fold them, punch in some holes and sew. I’m not using traditional materials so things didn’t go as easily as I had imagined. I’ve spent some time, then, working out different variations that might be successful. One of my experiments was making just two holes to sew through, using craft cord and a big plastic needle.
This sample, using needle and thread, came out okay, but I didn’t like how the sewing stations, which were punched using an awl, were so ragged. Also, I wasn’t sure if the students could handle the needle and thread. I sent this sample into school for the class to see, and the consensus seemed to be that the students wanted to work with needle and thread, rather than with yarn or shoelaces.
This evening I tried out making various sized holes in the covers using a hole punch, so that the edges of holes would be smooth. The punch that gave me the best result makes a hole that is about same diameter as my needle. I used this punch just for the covers, then used my awl to drive holes through the inside papers, while the covers were clamped to the pages. This sequence of working kept the sewing stations lined up nicely.
After playing around a bit more I’ve decided to bring in materials so that students can choose between using craft cord and two holes, or using waxed linen thread and five holes. I’m bringing in some origami papers and some symbols of Fu, the symbol for luck, so that they can decorate the covers.
Now, if it ever stops snowing , I might actually get to do this project tomorrow morning!