Krabbleknoten – math you can play in

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.

1 Comment

  1. Lily on May 8, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Many a child has learned about gravity and centrifugal force on the playground as well. I agree that other functions need to be worked into the design. For example, music. When my son goes to a metal playground, (or anywhere with railings), one of the things he loves to do is to tap the railings in different places to get a different sound. At our swimming pool, while the kids are waiting to go down the slide, they have all figured out (through modelling) that wet hands rubbed across metal uprights of the railings quickly results in a high pitched sound similar to a pipe organ, and that the sound changes if they rub the top or the bottom. Kids are so hardwired for learning, that they will learn, whether we intend them to or not.

    I think an awesome addition to a playground would be a Perpetual Motion machine, especially if there were a way that they could become a part of the machine.

    Love and laughter,

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