How to Write a Mathematical Poem

Mathematics and poetry are not as unrelated as they first might seem. The math poem is a relatively informal style of poetry that uses mathematical formulations and vocabulary to describe subjects particular to math as well as everyday events. When writing a math poem for the first time, start by choosing a topic that appeals to you, and then research a subject you think you could write about before trying to find terms or put pencil to paper.

Topic Tips

You can write a math poem about topics of a simple arithmetical nature -- addition, subtraction, multiplication or division -- or a more complex idea such as the Fibonacci sequence, which describes the spirals of such natural shapes as ram’s horns and seashells. You can match your topic to the material you are working on in class or choose a topic unrelated to math, such as a recent life event, using mathematical language to describe it. A poem about the holidays, for example, could use mathematical terms to describe the Christmas countdown.

Math Language

Hundreds of math terms exist, but luckily, far fewer will likely pertain your exact topic. Gather as many mathematical vocab words as you can pertaining to your subject, and write them down so that you have a list when it comes time to compose your poem. You can use your textbook to help you get started collecting terms. When talking about division, for example, you can use terms such as "divide up" or "separate."

Poem Form

Poetry -- including mathematical poetry -- can take many different forms. If your subject is short and punchy, you can try haiku for only three lines, the first and last lines containing five syllables and the middle line containing seven. For a longer poem, you can write in free verse, which requires no particular structure, or in rhyming couplets, in which every two lines rhyme. To up the mathematical content of your poem, you can choose a poetry form that already relies on mathematical principles, such as a diamante, which has a diamond shape: seven lines, containing respectively one, two, three, four, three, two and one words.

Producing Mathematical Poetry

You can begin by writing about your topic, using as many of your math terms as possible. Once you have a draft, rewrite to refine both the poem’s subject and its form. Integrate a few more math concepts or change out vocabulary words that end up looking awkward. Give your poem a clever title that hints at its subject. For example, your poem might have a title like Archimedes' "That Cattle Problem," in which he poses a tough math problem.

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