This month, Math, Science, & Technology are music to our ears. Work both sides of your brain and listen to the collection of songs we’ve chosen just for you. Included are old favorites in our playlist like Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo. We also mixed in some fun bands you may not have heard before like The Dandy Warhols and You Had Me at Six. There are plenty of possibilities to find your favorite new jam. (Watch for a couple of comedians, too. And we apologize ahead of time for two lapses of polite language, which seems to be a thing sometimes in comedy acts.) In any case, bring out your pocket protector, press play, and get geeky with us!

British poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge once corresponded,

I have often been surprised, that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few…

His letter included a poem that touches on a geometric proposition from Book I of the Greek mathematician Euclid’s Elements. Coleridge mentioned that the poem was just a sample of a more ambitious project which intended to reproduce all of Euclid’s “Elements” in a series of Pindaric odes. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Here is an excerpt from his poem, “A Mathematical Problem:”

This is now–this was erst,

Proposition the first–and Problem the first.

On a given finite Line

Which must no way incline;

To describe an equi–

–lateral Tri–

–A, N, G, L, E.

Now let A. B.

Be the given line

Which must no way incline;

The great Mathematician

Makes this Requisition,

That we describe an Equi–

–lateral Tri–

–angle on it:

Aid us, Reason–aid us, Wit!

From the centre A. at the distance A. B.

Describe the circle B. C. D.

At the distance B. A. from B. the centre

The round A. C. E. to describe boldly venture.

(Third Postulate see.)

And from the point C.

In which the circles make a pother

Cutting and slashing one another,

Bid the straight lines a journeying go,

C. A., C. B. those lines will show.

To the points, which by A. B. are reckon’d,

And postulate the second

For Authority ye know.

A. B. C.

Triumphant shall be

An Equilateral Triangle,

Not Peter Pindar carp, not Zoilus can wrangle.

—by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

### Try It

Write a poem that honors the complex beauty of mathematics. It could be a math problem you remember from childhood, gratitude for a calculator, or the mind-boggling magnificence of geometry, calculus, or discrete math. Celebrate math with a bit of left-brained poetry. Share your poem with us in the comments section below.

### Featured Poem

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a poem about a childhood game we enjoyed from Andrew:

**British Bulldogs**

British Bulldogs, the rough and tumble sport.

The teachers forbade it, said it

Was dangerous to the likes of us.

Here is how to play it, so that you

May better ignore them.

First find a circle, any round

Or even square shaped playing ground.

One in the middle, to divide

Between the two opposing sides.

Beware the growling foe! Pass him by,

And if you’re lucky you will survive

To pass through to the other side,

Where in the shadows, you – can hide.

But if he catches you! Do not go quiet!

Let your brethren know you did not

Go easy to meet the foe.

For you’re like him now, and if you had

Honour, you’d bid your former friends beware

That you are coming.

—by Andrew H.

**Photo by Tom Brown. Creative Commons via Flickr.**

Browse more writing prompts

Browse poetry teaching resources

**How to Write a Poem ** uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.

*“ How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”*

—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland

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Rick Maxson says

Parallax

How to see,

that is the problem.

One is inclusive,

the first and last

of everything. One,

though many, remains so,

but requires a place

from which to know this.

Strangely, one then,

by necessity, makes two,

else one cannot be

known as one.

One is a sound

inside your head,

a single sound you think

you hear. Write it down

and it is two, combine it

with a hundred more

and it is one again,

like words on a page,

like this poem.

Heather Eure says

Clever, Rick! You’ve altered my view of parallaxis. Haha. Get it? Get it?

Zack Smith says

Strings (a poem about string theory)

If we found out the world

Was made of something else

Than we thought it was

Originally

The scientists agree

Definitely

There’s something we don’t see

They say everything

Is composed of sort of strings

Trembling endlessly

From unseen energy

Lifting from nothing

A volume of relief

A measure of belief

Wouldn’t that change everything?

Wouldn’t that make history

Seem like a story that

Drops you in unexpectedly?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

If you’ve heard a thing

You can’t explain

Echoes from the world

Meant to be

And whatever it was

Was beautiful and true

And everlasting, too

What if we were fashioned

Intimately

By a master artisan

Of classical strings

Our bodies and our souls

Resonating

With music we can’t read

Wouldn’t that change everything?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

From the rain pour’n down on our heads

To the soles of our muddy feet?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

Wouldn’t it change even me?

I suddenly feel I’m constructed of cellos and violins

I say I’ve got nothing to add to the words that I catch on the wind

But I hear a song in the sunrise that echoes within

Tell me: How is that possible? Where does it begin?

Some of us would say

There’s a melody

Carries us along

When we are weak

Helps us just to breathe

In moments we can’t speak

“That resonates with me”

JJ Reyes says

“I suddenly feel I’m constructed of cellos and violins”

Love it.

Andrew H says

Beautiful. I enjoyed it a lot.

Monica Sharman says

My son and I watched all of Arthur Benjamin’s lectures on The Great Courses:

http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Mental-Courses-Teaching-Company/dp/1598037161

http://www.ted.com/speakers/arthur_benjamin

So I can’t help but write this month’s themed poem about that.

The Mathemagician(Some phrases taken from Arthur Benjamin’s “The Secrets of Mental Math” from The Great Courses)

Numbers can dance.

If you don’t know the Art of Math,

learn his tricks—not so much magic

as the math of least resistance,

whether criss-cross, factoring, or

close-together method. Do quick math

the way poets write and their readers

read: left to right. Turn hard subtraction

to easy addition. Understand your complements,

two and three and four digits. Divide

and conquer, memorize one-seventh

have all the other sevenths down

by circling round repeated digits.

Take advantage of patterns,

how the cube begins and ends.

Pick any date in history and know

the day of the week. Turn digits

into sounds to keep a long number,

like a good story you will never forget.

Heather Eure says

I am fascinated by mental math, Monica. Love how you created a poem from the concept!

Heather Eure says

Thanks so much for sharing your poem with us, Zack. I see you’re in a folk-rock band. That’s one of my favorite sub-genres. I’ll be sure to check out some of your music. 🙂

Kelsey Royer says

Used to be that math was a mystery.

A complicated mass that unraveled itself just so.

Too neatly , in my mind,

I preferred the mess.

Til I left it behind and started counting

in an off-kilter , out the side of my mouth kind of way.

Then counting in groups, intuitively

making easy jumps from truth to truth

made simple the leap from math to intuition–

a stream of sense in a jumbled mess.

A mess of words, a mess or numbers,

does it really matter which?

Consider the improbability of your own existence,

the absolute unlikelihood that 1+1 could be simple.

But you’re here, you’re breathing

and you’ve scribbled the answer on your napkin just there.

Heather Eure says

Thanks Kelsey, what a great contribution.

Andrew H says

Physicists

I know a physicist, he knows the world.

I know of the ideal,

He the real.

We are not the same, he and I

For when I look into the sky

I see a question, banner, hope

While he sees light, refracted and subdued.

And when I hear a singer, aye I hear emotion

But he – the pity of the thing –

Sees only waves that soundless dance,

For waves are waves, and will not prance.

And yet… and yet, he sweeps the curtain back

Onto a universe beyond my gaze –

I see the surface, dream of the ideal

But he sees through that sort of haze.

Alas. I know a physicist;

He knows the real

While I labour

With the ideal.

Heather Eure says

It’s lovely to see science and poetry complement each other. Be sure to check out next week’s post, too! 🙂

Andrew H says

Of course! 😛

Glynn says

My Agony, My Ecstasy

Mathematics was a friend;

we’d stroll down corridors

together, not arm-in-arm

but chatting, distant comrades.

We sat next to each other

in classrooms, enduring the best

and the worst each school

had to offer,

until, trusting my friend,

I followed him into the surrealism

of geometry, a forest of crystal trees

with jagged edges tearing

at my flesh, my mind, and flashing

lights of what was claimed to be logic,

demanding tattoos of proof and theorem.

I escaped, bare and barely,

to the warm embrace of algebra

and its fraternal twin trigonometry,

my mind clearing, order restored

as I danced with equations, flirted

with sines and co-sines, still

shuddering at what I’d left behind.

Mathematics was my agony.

Mathematics was my ecstasy.

Heather Eure says

This is great. I can relate to the agony/ecstasy.

Maureen says

Law of Averages

If we could write our own vows, we would

forsake those 7 deadly sins, reimagine how

we’d cope with 1.862 children under 18

in a house with just 2,690 square feet

and 2.37 bathrooms. We’d have to add

1.6 dogs and 2.1 cats but forgo the garage

for the 1.9 vehicles we’d have for the 1.8

drivers in our household. Fair enough!

Would one of us earning $107,054 mean

the other could retire early after saving

8 times his salary? Because, the truth is,

nobody wants to be actuarially reduced,

especially if the one with the most toys

fails to win the MegaMillions Powerball.

Like everyone else in America, we’d need

a lot more to be more than comfortable,

never knowing when we’d likely be hit

by the proverbial bus tomorrow. Such is

the law of national averages that sticking

it out for 8.2 years would not be nearly long

enough for either of us to grow old together.

Prasanta says

What a great prompt! 🙂

Hymn of Matter

Energy cannot be created or destroyed

Only changed

From one form to another

Matter is fixed

Mortal pieces of dust

Molecules and atoms of

Breathing, beating souls

Return to the substance of his breath

DNA , unwrapped —

Strings stretch across universe

Connect planets –

The circumference– infinite

Pull strings taut

Listen to familiar haunting tune–

Our prayers, cries, groans

Tears and laughs

Listen to the hum of us

Songs of dust

Rising like incense

He inclines his head –

Amen.

Jennifer Dotson says

Easy as Pi

Numbers dance in your brain

with grace and speed.

They twirl and spin as they

switch partners from the

easy do-si-do of addition

and subtraction to the fast

tempo waltz in three-quarter

time of multiplication and

division.

Complex equations of

algebra

geometry

trigonometry and

calculus

are no match as you nimbly

sort the numbers into smaller

components to solve.

Oh, teach me how to two step.

Numbers stumble and bumble

about heavy-booted in my brain

as they fumble for the lights.

Is that the root of my attraction?

Like yin and yang?

That’s a simple fraction, you say,

two halves making one whole.