Making art can be a fun way to get creative and gain new perspectives, which in turn can strengthen general problem-solving skills. Over the last few years, I have been writing about and presenting work that is focused on how playing with math or art can be an enjoyable and creative pathway for exploring patterns and space. One of the hands-on projects that I have found to be exceptionally enjoyable and useful in my spatial explorations is building polystix models.
Polystix are a family of structures composed of non-intersecting cylinders, related though cubic symmetry, where groups of rods are parallel to only 3 or 4 directions. Symmetric polystix arrangements can be modeled with a wide variety of rod or stick-like materials, and do not need any complicated fixtures or templates to construct, making them an ideal tool for learning about space.
Building polystix can be a fun way to familiarize beginners with a wide range of mathematical concepts, but does not require previous mathematical training, nor the use of complicated formulas or theorems to enjoy. The open-ended nature of polystix modeling projects also provides many complex and challenging problems for those interested in more advanced explorations.
Examples of polystix can be found around the world in: burr puzzles, architecture, crystallography, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and, of course in art.
I’ve started this blog to share some insights and discoveries that I have made while working with polystix. My hope is that this work helps to promote polystix to a wider audience, and that these projects encourage others to use art as a way to engage with mathematics, and use mathematics as a way to make beautiful art.