Question Sheet: Math of the World


Before reading:

  1. How do people use math in everyday life? 
  2. Where in the natural world might you see complex mathematical patterns?

During reading:

  1. Name three surprising places where Ron Eglash has found math. 
  2. What sort of math describes the design of some African villages? Why do

    these villages have such a design? 

  3. What is a fractal? 
  4. Why is “four-point symmetry” important to many Native Americans? Where can

    you see examples of it? 

  5. Describe the Cartesian coordinate system. 
  6. Eglash says, “We are using math as a bridge to culture.” What does he mean?

After reading:

  1. Does math in school feel very distant from everyday life? Do Eglash’s

    examples help you feel more connected to math? 

  2. Find and describe an example of math in objects or rituals from your

    family’s cultural heritage. 

  3. What was the most surprising place where Eglash found math? Why? 
  4. Why are patterns an important part of mathematics? See’s Lab). 
  5. Compare traditional ways of learning math to Eglash’s method. What are some

    of the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems? See

    (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Where in Africa do the Fulani people live? In general, how do the Fulani make a living? What type of artworks and designs are they known for? See (University of

Iowa), (Metropolitan

Museum of Art), and


  1. Look at pictures of quilts in a book or online. Design and draw your own

    quilt with a mathematical pattern. Describe why you used the pattern that you

    chose and where it came from. See (Rebecca Chaky) or (Guilford

    County Schools, North Carolina). 

  2. Write a brief report on a traditional Native American craft that uses

    patterns (for example, beadwork, basket weaving, jewelry making, or pottery

    making). Describe what meaning such patterns had in Native American life. See and (Tara Prindle).


What basic shapes and simple rules went into the creation of the object shown below? What would be the starting shape? What is the first step? How many steps does it take to get to the pattern shown?


Draw what the next stage would look like. This fractal is sometimes called a Sierpinski triangle.