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February 2, 2020 at 10:48 am

Kennedy Museum Exhibit Immerses Visitors in Indigenous Math Circles

From left, Jeff Carr, Sally Fowler, Bob Klein and Henry Fowler examine a weaving in the Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy Southwest Native American Collection.

From left, Jeff Carr, Sally Fowler, Bob Klein and Henry Fowler examine a weaving in the Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy Southwest Native American Collection.

From Ohio University News

Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art opened “Pattern & Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics” on Feb. 1 with an opening reception, traditional weaving demonstration and curator walk and talk.

The exhibit draws from the Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy Southwest Native American Collection and is co-curated by Dr. Robert Klein, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Ohio; Mathematics Professor Henry Fowler at Diné College; and Fowler’s mother, Navajo weaver Sally Fowler. The exhibit explores the Diné (Navajo) weaving design from the perspective of their traditions and beliefs, and how fundamental mathematical ideas are also embedded in the designs.

Klein, who is the executive director of the Alliance of Indigenous Math Circles, has been working on the math circles project on the Navajo reservation with Dr. Fowler since 2013. Traditionally, math circles are a way to bring mathematicians and students together to work on interesting problems that act as a hook and lead to further discussion about mathematics. Klein explains that math circles can be found all over, but he is currently trying to expand them to other tribes across the nation since mathematics is the birthright of every person.

“Navajos say that weavings have lives and can share stories since each design is specific to the weaver who computed the thinking and design process behind it,” Klein said. “This is the frame in which we guide our visitors in this exhibit, allowing them to understand that within the mathematics and geometry in the weavings is the voice of the weaver behind it.”

 

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