Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing Math Poems

Santa Claus
Santa Claus (Photo credit: Nuchi Corp)

Writing math poems
I started writing poetry to express the usual teen angst and went on to write poetry for family holidays and the like. When I started writing poetry for publication it was about family and personal life. Although My undergraduate major was mathematics and my graduate degree is in computer science, I never even considered writing poetry about mathematics.
I did, however, write "Round". Round was sparked by my memory of a discussion in a college physics class about the rate at which a cup of coffee would cool and how the shape of the cup played into it. I didn't love college physics, and this was easily the most memorable thing in the whole course. Another trigger memory from a math class about the sphere having the least surface area per unit volume of any solid figure.
So I wrote "Round" and sent it off and it was accepted for publication. A friend read it and pronounced the finest math poem she'd ever read.
Huh? This is a math poem? She did manage to convince me, and I wrote a series of math poems. I went looking for books on the history of mathematics, and found mighty slim pickings. One book on the story of counting for kids and one or two fairly serious, heavy tomes for grownups. I did find a few interesting articles online, but not a book of the kind I wanted.
Some of the poems have been published, but I have yet to do anything with the collection as a whole.
There is, however, still that little voice that says I should take the math poems and use them as the basis for that non-fiction math book for kids I couldn't find.


The sphere
is the perfect

for conserving heat,
providing the least

surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at

the North Pole.

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  1. Margaret, neat! Between you and Magdalena Ball who writes lots of science poems, I feel that I am in the company of Einstein fellows. (-: BTW, the LA Times recently ran a feature on "mathy poets." (-:


    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Excited about how much the new edition of the Frugal Book Promoter (expanded! updated!) can help writers with the tried and true and the new media, too. Now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right ( it the original edition was also a Reader Views winner and an Irwin Award winner.

  2. What a clever poem Margaret. I don't write many math poems, but have written a few - one called "10 Digits of e" comes to mind. I love the idea of cross-fertilisation between disciplines. The idea of writing a book of maths poems for children is brilliant.

  3. What fun! I used to use one to help students learn the difference between mean, median, mode and range. Do write your book, Margaret, please...

  4. I love the poem. I agree write your math book.

  5. Wonderful poem, Peggy. Yes, you should definitely write a math book - kids need it. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  6. Karen, one of the things that stopped was the time involved in writing about the mathematics involved. But today I started {groan}.

  7. Wow! Impressive! Math and poetry. Who'da thunk it?

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thanks, Margaret, for "Round." I am ever searching for mathy poems for my blog "Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics" at


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