Honors College to Present 'Math Circus'

Participants will assemble puzzle pieces cut from kids' playmats to create this frilly mathematical form found throughout nature, which demonstrates the negative curvature of hyperbolic geometry.
Photo courtesy National Museum of Mathematics/momath.org

Participants will assemble puzzle pieces cut from kids' playmats to create this frilly mathematical form found throughout nature, which demonstrates the negative curvature of hyperbolic geometry.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Want to weave an icosahedral bamboo star — or help build a rainbow-bright bit of hyperbolic geometry? Come on down to the Honors College Math Circus, part of the U of A’s 150th birthday celebration Come as You Arkansas.

All on campus and in the community are invited, and there will be activities for all ages, from spray chalking sidewalks to creating jumbo pop art that packs a mathematical punch. Mathematical stickers, coloring sheets and other materials will be given away to mathematics and art enthusiasts.

The Math Circus will be located in the Gearhart Hall courtyard from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10.

Come as You Arkansas is an all-day event that will feature gatherings throughout campus with students, faculty and staff showcasing the university’s innovative ideas, research and far-reaching impact.

Chaim Goodman-Strauss puts the finishing touch on a sculpture assembled  at Gathering 4 Gardener in Atlanta, Georgia in 2008. Photo: James Carey Lauder.

RingMaster of Recreational Math

The ringmaster will be mathematics professor and artist Chaim Goodman-Strauss.

His work to demystify mathematics began 30 years ago, when he managed to lure sleepy teens to the University of Texas campus for interactive math shows on Saturday mornings. Over the years he has developed toys, games, a podcast and community art events that explore topics from the foundations of logic to the shape of the universe.

In partnership with local artist Eugene Sargent, Goodman-Strauss has created a series of mathematical sculptures that were assembled on-site in Atlanta by attendees of the biennial Gathering 4 Gardner, honoring longtime Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner.

“There’s nothing like getting your hands on something to truly understand an abstract concept — plus, it’s a lot of fun!” Goodman-Strauss said. “I’m looking forward to working with our community to pull off something wonderful right here at the U of A.”

Hyperbolic Rainbows

The pièce de resistance will be the hyperbolic rainbow sculpture. Participants will assemble puzzle pieces cut from kids’ playmats and learn a little differential geometry along the way.

“This frilly mathematical form appears all over nature — in lettuces, kale, coral — and demonstrates the negative curvature of hyperbolic geometry,” Goodman-Strauss said. “And it is strikingly beautiful!”

Goodman-Strauss is working with U of A lawyers to patent the system, which consists of identical pieces that arc into hyperbolic curves when fitted together.

Potential uses range from a hands-on educational toy to an arresting installation for a corporate plaza. More immediately, he is teaching students how to develop recreational math tools, beginning with an intersession Honors College forum offered in August 2021.

The students have created stickers and other freebies that will be given away at the Math Circus; they will also serve as captains to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

If you are curious about the new Curvahedra sculpture that was recently installed in the Gearhart Hall courtyard, mathematics professor and artist Edmund Harriss, who dreamed up the system and cotaught a course that led to this new piece of public art, will also be on hand to chat with visitors.

Come lend us a hand — and get a look at just how beautiful mathematics can be!

About the Honors College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and brings together high-achieving undergraduate students and the university’s top professors to share transformative learning experiences. Each year the Honors College awards up to 90 freshman fellowships that provide $72,000 over four years, and more than $1 million in undergraduate research and study abroad grants. The Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of students it admits and graduates. Honors students enjoy small, in-depth classes, and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad and 100 percent of them have engaged in mentored research. 

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


Chaim Goodman-Strauss, professor, department of mathematical sciences
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-4764, strauss@uark.edu

Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, kcurlee@uark.edu


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