How craft and origami Instruct us maths Theories

The majority of us probably consider activities such as crochet and blossom as a portion of the area of crafts and arts, however, two mathematicians are showing they can also be a path into mathematics.

Dr Jeanette McLeod and Dr Phil Wilson intend to introduce people to maths concepts by demonstrating these thoughts are combined with crafts. They will be inviting folks to join them to learn how to decorate a mathematical knot, even crochet a Möbius strip, then fold a blossom tetrahedron or colour a Latin square.

Origami versions

Hyperbolic crochet

Knitted knots

Möbius strip

Dr Jeanette McLeod and Dr Phil Wilson

“I’m a pure mathematician, I work in something known as combinatorics, therefore I truly don’t work in anything related to the real world,” Dr McLeod explained.

“For me personally, having something tangible like craft, where I could show mathematics, is just excellent.”


 “I put down the theory of mathematics, that is exactly what pure mathematicians do, however, one evening, who knows when, it might really be useful in the Actual universe” – Dr Jeanette McLeod

Mathematics were already utilised in a wide variety of crafts, she said – for example in knitting to acquire the blueprint and the size appropriate.

Having the ability to hold a three-dimensional thing in one’s hands may help decipher certain concepts like hyperbolic geometry, ” Dr McLeod explained.

“This hyperbolic plane [the next image from the gallery above] is really a contour we see in nature a lot as it maximises the outside area, so for instance, in my crochet, which I could take in my hands, so it is pretty large,” she said.

“It has got half a kilometre of yarn in it, but when I snapped a scarf using this yarn it would be monumental.”

Origami was also useful for learning about geometry, ” Dr McLeod explained.

“We could make mathematical shapes such as the platonic solids in origami. You need to be very, very precise when you do that, so understanding angles, knowing fractions…”

The project, Maths Craft, was granted funding through Unlocking Curious Minds, which intends to engage young New Zealanders from STEM subjects – science, engineering, technology and mathematics – to take the concept to schools and associations around the nation.

Dr McLeod said she hoped the tour would help to educate folks about the creativity of mathematics.

“I’ve had friends ask me when I just sit in my office doing long division all day and that’s not at all what maths really is.

“It’s exceptionally creative, it is very playful, you have to be part of earning mistakes and getting things wrong.”