student practicing juggling

Creativity and mathematics connections in/outside the classroom

Creativity in Mathematics Field Trip to the SHED museum space in NYC, NY 2020

The art-centered theme for Spring 2020 was inspired by the Agnes Denes exhibit at the SHED exhibit space in New York City. Agnes Denes is a pioneering artist who is described as pushing artistic boundaries by using varied disciplines to explore the state of the world. Her work also is described as at once public facing and self-analyzing. On Friday, February 21st, 31 students and ten faculty loaded onto a school bus to visit the SHED exhibit space in Manhattan. The trip brought a pause to the demands and obligations of work, as we found ourselves in an exhibit where poetry, light, philosophy, science, and the very earth we inhabit were on display for our analysis and wonder. It was a reminder that our mathematical learning can be brought to questioning, appreciating, sharing and breathing in art in all of the forms Denes had to offer.

Read the article Field Tripping in NYC an article about the trip

Virtual museum of mathematics

Read the article Virtual museum of mathematics opens

The Mathematics of Juggling

Read the article Math is in the Air

Read the Montclair Local article, ‘Smashed’ Keeps its Apples in the Air

Read the paper Inspiring Mathematical Creativity through Juggling published in Journal of Humanistic Mathematics by Monahan, C., Munakata, M., Vaidya, A., and Gandini, S.

View the Juggling Lesson

Students’ conceptions of creativity


Students in Math 106 participated in a final exam experience connecting creativity, mathematics and their personal interests. Before the tree was revealed, students were asked to think and write about how mathematics connected to their career interest, major, hobby and personal social justice interest. Students wrote key words and sentences on leaves. The tree was then revealed and the students posted each of their leaves on the appropriate branch. The branches represented traits identified as being creative. These include the ability to:

  1. connect ideas
  2. see similarities and differences
  3. have flexibility
  4. have aesthetic taste
  5. be unorthodox
  6. be motivated
  7. be inquisitive
  8. convince others of the values of one’s ideas

Then, in heterogeneous groups, students discussed the six books they had read over the semester. These books were books about mathematics written for the general audience and were selected because they make connections between mathematics, history and creativity. The groups added leaves to the tree that summarized their conversations and the overarching themes that connected the books to one another. These leaves are the ones you see with a number on them (representing the students’ group numbers). Finally, the students participated in a whole-group discussion about the nature of mathematics and added their ideas on the main trunk of the tree on yellow post-its, intended to represent the bark of the creativi-tree. Investing in creativity.

CMS Scholars 2017-2019

Through the CMS Scholars Program, students worked on projects related to creativity in STEM and expanded their experiences in their fields. The CMS Scholars program was a research-based program that helped students apply principles learned in other courses and projects.

Benefits gained from being a CMS Scholar

  • Teamwork
  • Advisement
  • Preparation for research
  • Teamwork with peers from other majors
  • Access to faculty mentors
  • Internships
  • Experience for graduate school and industry
  • Department recognition
Students doing experiment in hallway

What does being a CMS Scholar mean?

  • Participated in discussions and problem-solving tasks to develop, invent and use creative approaches to solve problems from their courses
  • Identified questions of interest for research and approached the question in creative ways.
  • Developed the process over solution while exploring.
  • Worked on projects individually and in teams
  • Participated in a culminating symposium
Elastic measuring tape