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UFT Math Teachers Committee workshop on tessellations in quilts

Teaching math and Civil War history
New York Teacher
Retiree Stephanie Kollar, a former art teacher, (third from left) explains how e
Miller Photography

Retiree Stephanie Kollar, a former art teacher, (third from left) explains how each block represents a clue showing fugitive slaves how to escape.

A creative math workshop organized by the UFT’s Math Teachers Committee reached back to the antebellum South to make a point about how math is related to our daily lives. The object of study was the tessellations in quilts in which the same shape or combination of shapes is repeated to cover an area without any gaps or overlaps. Retiree Stephanie Kollar, a former art teacher, presented a quilt she had created that was a copy of a Freedom Quilt containing a secret code for fugitive slaves to use to escape to freedom during the era of the Underground Railroad. Quilts slung over a fence or porch railing, seemingly to air, passed on necessary information to slaves before and during the American Civil War. Kollar told participants that the quilt patterns illustrate a “different way of teaching not only about shapes and, at higher levels, about angles, but also about history.” For Nicholas Weber of the HS for Health Professions and Human Services, the math workshop at union headquarters on March 25 “provided a wonderful insight into how math may be discovered in our daily lives” as well as the opportunity to see how geometric patterns were used to deliver “tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters from the evils of slavery and discrimination.”

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Related Topics: Math Teachers