John Edmark and Nature of Math

Parker students and teachers had the opportunity to share time with Stanford University lecturer, designer, inventor, engineer, artist and mathematician John Edmark this week.
In a Morning Ex with 3rd–12th grade students, Edmark described how he began experimenting with geometry and the ways it appears in nature. When observing spirals in sunflowers, ferns, artichokes and Romanesco broccoli, he recognized similarities in these naturally occurring phenomena and noticed the Golden Ratio was apparent in the way these plants formed and grew.
During the next few years, Edmark began building objects that mimicked the behaviors and properties of the natural examples around him. The products of his experimentations include a range of truly amazing pieces of art: puzzles in which every piece is exactly the same shape only differing by size, a wooden arm that curls and unfurls like a fern frond, a lollicopter that resembles a double-helix before spinning to transform to a pine cone-shaped toy and his 3D printed Blooms. The Blooms, when spun on a specially made turntable and hit with a specifically timed strobe light, appear to morph, grow and transform in front of your very eyes. Students gasped in amazement as Edmark demonstrated solid objects turning into something more amorphous and fluid. In reflecting upon what he just witnessed, one 8th grader remarked, “This was one of the best MXes of the whole year!”
Following the Morning Ex, 8th grade students gathered with Edmark in the Kovler Family Library to learn more. He showed more up-close examples of Blooms, allowed students to play with a lollipopter and answered questions about his design process, his professional career and his inspirations for creating such artistic marvels.
Later that day, students from the 5th grade joined their interested counterparts in the Upper School for a workshop with Edmark in the TIDES Garage space. He led students working in small groups in creating their own flower-like images reflecting the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci sequence he spoke about earlier that day in Morning Ex.
Experiences like this visit from John Edmark help students of all ages and abilities appreciate the beauty, magic and meaning of the mathematical world that surrounds us every day.

Click here for photos from Edmark’s visit.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.