Krabbleknoten – math you can play in

by Bernie DeKoven on May 8, 2012

In her Playscapes blog, Paige Johnson writes:

The play-sculpture, which is sized for either children or adults (and was indeed celebrated by full-size modern dancers at its inauguration), is based on the topological investigations of Professor Ulrich Brehm, also at the Dresden University of Technology, who works on what are essentially sophisticated mathematical knots.

“A mathematician’s knot differs from everyday knots in that the ends are joined together so that it cannot be undone. It is a closed curve….a surface with two openings but without any edges.”

Which quite naturally makes for an interesting climbing experience in which the child traverses not just any tunnel, but a continuous mathematical function.

My introduction to algebra was a see-saw. It was there I was able to explore, physically, the meaning of a balanced equation. It makes me wonder how many other abstract concepts – mathematical, physical, social, literary, musical, visual – we learn on the playground, and how many more, given the science and the art of playground design, we can be teaching.

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