Do you have trouble believing that math can be beautiful?

In “Inspirations,” artist Cristóbal Vila creates a wonderful, imaginary work studio for the amazing M.C. Escher. You’ll want to view it in full-screen mode.

Read about the inspirations, and then try making some math of your own.

“I looked into that enormous and inexhaustible source of inspiration that is Escher and tried to imagine how it could be his workplace, what things would surround an artist like him, so deeply interested in science in general and mathematics in particular. I imagined that these things could be his travel souvenirs, gifts from friends, sources of inspiration…”

I had forgotten this video, and then rediscovered it yesterday and loved it just as much as ever. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it, too — especially if you think of yourself as “not a math person.”

Annie Fetter is talking to classroom teachers, but her message is just as important for homeschoolers. Math is all about making sense. Let’s help our kids see it that way.

You can download the notes for Fetter’s updated session on sense-making and find several links to wonderful, thought-provoking posts on her blog:

“When I began my college education, I still had many doubts about whether I was good enough for mathematics. Then a colleague said the decisive words to me: it is not that I am worthy to occupy myself with mathematics, but rather that mathematics is worthy for one to occupy oneself with.”

I would like to win over those who consider mathematics useful, but colourless and dry — a necessary evil…

No other field can offer, to such an extent as mathematics, the joy of discovery, which is perhaps the greatest human joy.

The schoolchildren that I have taught in the past were always attuned to this, and so I have also learned much from them.

It never would have occurred to me, for instance, to talk about the Euclidean Algorithm in a class with twelve-year-old girls, but my students led me to do it.

I would like to recount this lesson.

What we were busy with was that I would name two numbers, and the students would figure out their greatest common divisor. For small numbers this went quickly. Gradually, I named larger and larger numbers so that the students would experience difficulty and would want to have a procedure.

I thought that the procedure would be factorization into primes.

They had still easily figured out the greatest common divisor of 60 and 48: “Twelve!”

But a girl remarked: “Well, that’s just the same as the difference of 60 and 48.”

“That’s a coincidence,” I said and wanted to go on.

But they would not let me go on: “Please name us numbers where it isn’t like that.”

“Fine. 60 and 36 also have 12 as their greatest common divisor, and their difference is 24.”

Another interruption: “Here the difference is twice as big as the greatest common divisor.”

“All right, if this will satisfy all of you, it is in fact no coincidence: the difference of two numbers is always divisible by all their common divisors. And so is their sum.”

Certainly that needed to be stated in full, but having done so, I really did want to move on.

However, I still could not do that.

A girl asked: “Couldn’t they discover a procedure to find the greatest common divisor just from that?”

They certainly could! But that is precisely the basic idea behind the Euclidean Algorithm!

So I abandoned my plan and went the way that my students led me.

Playing with a new image editor, I came across this Winston Churchill quote. What a great description of how it feels to learn math!

If you have a student who struggles with math or is suffering from a loss of enthusiasm, check out Jo Boaler’s free online course on developing a mathematical mindset:

It’s a short book with plenty of great stories, advice, and conversation-starters. While Danielson writes directly to parents, the book will also interest grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers, and anyone else who wants to help children notice and think about math in daily life.

“You don’t need special skills to do this. If you can read with your kids, then you can talk math with them. You can support and encourage their developing mathematical minds.

“You don’t need to love math. You don’t need to have been particularly successful in school mathematics. You just need to notice when your children are being curious about math, and you need some ideas for turning that curiosity into a conversation.

“In nearly all circumstances, our conversations grow organically out of our everyday activity. We have not scheduled “talking math time” in our household. Instead, we talk about these things when it seems natural to do so, when the things we are doing (reading books, making lunch, riding in the car, etc) bump up against important mathematical ideas.

“The dialogues in this book are intended to open your eyes to these opportunities in your own family’s life.”