Mathematics of Art
Fall 2011

Professor Annalisa Crannell
Office Hours: by appointment and whenever my door is open
Office:  204 Stager
Web Page:    
Telephone: 717-291-4222

Preceptor: Andrew Masterleo

Course Materials (What You’ll Need)
from the bookstore:
    • A copy of Flatland, by E. A. Abbott.
    • Rules for Writers, by Diana Hacker
    • Viewpoints:  Mathematical Perspective and Fractal Geometry in Art
                • Access to a word-processor and to an e-mail account.
                • A stapler.    
                • A brain.
            from the art store (see the attached list)

eight 1-page papers    (20%)    almost every Wednesday, 4:45 p.m.
first 4-page paper    (10%)    early October
second 4-page paper    (20%)    November 16
final paper    (20%)    December 16
Math/Art homeworks    (20%)    weekly
final art project    (10%)    December 16

You will be learning a lot from your classmates and they will be learning a lot from you, so I expect that you come prepared, with proper materials, and that you participate fully.  Please be advised that Math Department and F&M policy state that penalties (including grade reduction and/or dismissal from the course) may be assessed for excessive, unexcused absences.

Weekly Writing Assignments
With a few exceptions, you will have a 1-page paper due every Wednesday at 4:45 p.m., and I will count the best eight of these papers toward your final grade. There are 14 weeks in the class, and you will have two 5-page papers due (see below); there will be one Wednesday with no paper because of Thanksgiving break.  This means you may choose to skip writing a paper twice during the semester without any serious danger to your grade.  I will usually announce the topic of these papers one week in advance, so that you may begin writing during the week and revise your paper over the course of the following weekend.

You should write these papers in a nice 12-point font; the margins should be no narrower than 0.75 inches; the lines should be 1.5 spaced, and there should be a title, the due-date, and your name at the top of the page.  You may NOT hand in more than one page, despite various temptations to do so.  I want you to think hard about making your writing as concise and forceful as possible.  

Weekly Math /Art Assignments
Every week, you will have assignments that involve drawing.  You will be learning to draw by using math (or perhaps you will be learning to solve mathematics problems by drawing).  A good drawing takes time; I expect that you will spend at least 2 hours on your sketches, so make sure you carve out time for this.  Most students tell me that these sketches (a) take longer than they would have expected and (b) give them a real sense of accomplishment.  

The long papers
Over the course of the semester, you will "adopt" a piece of art that uses (or perhaps deliberately misuses) perspective to create an illusion—I will say more about this assignment once class begins.  During the first few weeks of class, you will choose the piece of art and make sure that I approve of your choice.  In October, you will write a paper describing the piece and placing it in an artistic context.  In November, you will write a paper describing the mathematics of the perspective in this piece.  Each of these two papers will become part of the reading assignments for the entire class.  For this reason, each of these papers will have 3 different deadlines: one for one-third of the class; another for another third of the class; and a third for the last five students.

We're going to learn a lot about library research: this link (developed by our class librarian, Louise Kulp) might help you get started.

The class times on the Fridays after these assignments are due will be devoted to discussing and critiquing the papers that your peers have written.  All students will be expected to participate in these discussions.

On December 16, the final ten-page paper will be due (your final art project will be due the same day).  This paper will describe both the artistic and mathematical aspects of your work . . . that is, it will combine and improve upon the ideas and prose of the previous two papers.

Reading Assignments
I expect you to read your text, your classmates’ papers, and (eventually) Flatland and to be prepared to discuss these assignments.  In addition, you will be reading scholarly work related to your “adopted” piece of art.

I love to talk about math, art, or life in general.  Please feel free to ask me questions both in and out of class; I've got a lot of office hours and am around a good deal of the time.  I’m even more congenial if you bring me chocolate.  

Your preceptor, Andrew Masterleone, is brilliant and creative.  In addition, he writes prose that is specific and evocative.  May you do the same.

The Writing Center (717-291-3866) is available for those who want help with their written projects, and there are also several undergraduate mathematics teaching assistants who hold regular hours (their schedules will be announced shortly).

-- this page last updated August 2011, by Annalisa Crannell