"Math professor combines hobby, area of study in J-Term offering" reports Jeffrey Zampanti.
If a stitch in time saves nine, can a needle and yarn teach math?
Carthage College students are discovering an interesting connection between these seemingly unrelated subjects in Mathematics of Knitting, a unique J-Term offering taught by Carthage assistant professor of mathematics Sara Jensen.
J-Term, short for January Term, is a month-long study designed for students to explore subjects outside of their majors or minors and a time for professors to get creative.
Mathematics of Knitting, a first-time course, teaches modular arithmetic, advanced concepts of symmetry and pattern generation entirely with two needles and a skein of yarn.
Jensen, 30, earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Carthage in 2008 before obtaining her masters and doctorate in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin. The New Berlin native was introduced to knitting at a young age, taught by her grandmother, and resumed the hobby during her time in Madison.
“In grad school, there’s a bunch of people who knit to sort of relieve the stress,” Jensen said. “I picked up knitting again at that time.”
Mathematics wasn’t overly interesting to Jensen until she began her studies at Carthage. Instead of focusing on formulas and theorems, she learned concepts of how math was applicable in everyday life.
Carthage freshman Sarah Cottone of Buffalo Grove, Ill., is one of 22 students in the class.
“I don’t like math that much so I thought knitting might make it a little easier,” said Cottone, a psychology major. “Growing up, we’re always asking ‘When are we ever going to use this?’
This class shows you how you really can use math.”
Students knit hats, cell phone cases, pillows, cup holders and other items while learning a variety of concepts. On Thursday, students focused on topological surfaces.