The ReCrafting Mathematics Education (RCM) project highlights new ways to engage students and educators in mathematical thinking through hands-on crafts, an approach that leverages new tangible manipulatives as objects-to-think-with in mathematics education. Our primary focus is on traditional crafts like textile, fiber, and needlework as we believe this research will lead to crucial advancements needed in math education.
Many of today’s tangible manipulatives (typically found in early childhood and early elementary) are rooted in blocks and other objects that children snap, construct, or otherwise build with to get a sense of shape, volume, or quantity, including cuisenaire rods, tangrams, Legos, and so forth.
But these materials support early understanding of mathematics and are less able to support engagement in more advanced mathematics. Therefore we have chosen to purposefully target traditional textiles, fiber, and needlework crafts to address this twofold gap in tangible manipulatives to (a) have new materials rooted in traditional women’s practices (and coded as “feminine”), as well as (b) have high utility in advanced mathematics.There is significant evidence that crafting practices can offer deep insight into mathematical ideas; as an example, in the early nineteenth century mathematicians became aware of another space called the hyperbolic plane. Although the properties of this space were known for 200 years, it was only in 1997 that Cornell mathematician Daina Taimina worked out how to make physical models of it, using crochet (Wertheim, 2005).
The importance of hands-on, interest-driven learning and the value of community and sense-of-belonging are often overlooked in the creation of new learning environments. In addition, math instruction suffers from an over-reliance on abstract and hypothetical problem solving that does not connect the mathematical concepts to meaningful, real-world relevance. One of the reasons the ReCrafting Mathematics Education project was started was to explore the many possible connections between math and craft and to revolutionize mathematics instruction to bring interest-driven learning to the curriculum. Explore this site, as well as the ReCrafting Education Blog, to see some of the amazing female crafters and mathematics connections we are exploring!