Building Real Mathematical Surfaces

November 1, 2019
The sphere is cut with planes that intersect in a single point

This week, Buckeye Aha! Math Moments had a series of events around the work of a special guest. Maria Garcia Monera, from the University of Valencia (Spain), is interested in Topology and Geometry and in designing and building paper models of surfaces.Graduate student assembling a paper model of an ellipsoid.

Even from last week we started preparing for Maria's visit. We built some of her models and displayed them in the Mathematics Tower lobby for everybody to see. Then on Monday, Maria gave the Recreational Mathematics Seminar. She explained that he technique she uses is based on the work of Felix Klein, Alexander Von Brill, and John Sharp. In an era before computers, where one could render the surfaces on a screen, the motivation for creating these models was aiding students in the visualization of the mathematical objects. The idea behind is finding plane curves contained on surfaces that can be cut in paper and used to reproduce the model.

The seminar was well attended by postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students, and lecturers, becoming the most popular Recreational Mathematics Seminar so far.

On Tuesday, Maria gave a workshop at the Columbus Public Library (Northside Branch) were some children built an orange paper sphere and decorated it as a pumpkin. Then on Wednesday, during Teas, those who attended the seminar (and a few others) put in practice what they had learned, building paper surfaces such as paraboloids, water drops, ellipsoids, andMetro School class crafting some surface paper models hearts.

Finally, on Thursday Maria worked with a 6th and 7th grade math class at Metro Middle School. She talked about surfaces of revolution and then the children worked in teams to craft spherical pumpkins and hearts.

Recreational Mathematics is about fun and entertainment, but that doesn't mean there aren't serious mathematics involved. As the Mathematical Association of America writes "Recreational mathematics is inspired by deep ideas that are hidden in puzzles, games, and other forms of play". With Maria's visit, the Department's community had fun and obtained a tool for helping students visualize surfaces. Hopefully, some were so inspired that they will design their own paper model.

Maria's paper sliced forms