April 28th was an exciting day for Eye on India! We welcomed Sunita Vatuk to Ogden International here in Chicago where she conducted an Art/Math/India culture workshop for Ogden 4th graders. The subject was kolams, beautiful South Indian designs made by trickling powder through the fingers. In South India smaller kolams are put every morning between the street and the home, and larger elaborate kolams are made on special occasions.
It was determined that working with white powder would be too messy in a classroom, so the students studied kolams through drawing and tracing. Kolams are visualizations of complex mathematics through pattern, and are a perfect way to explore the endless possibilities of factors. It was an absolute delight to experience the student’ s making connections and smart questions. They were so enthusiastic!
Sunita Vatuk worked with all five of the Ogden 4th grade classes one by one. The students started with observation, the basis of all problem solving. From there the students enjoyed discovering and learning the patterns. It was wonderful to see the students using their hands to learn, and their minds naturally understanding the imbedded math within the patterns. It was also very rewarding to introduce an important Indian cultural practice under the guise of mathematics.
Vatuk is a mathematician, math educator, former Senior Nehru-Fulbright Fellow, and CCNY professor. She brought to the classroom years of studying and researching the connections between kolams and mathematical thinking in Tamil Nadu, India. Her book exploring kolams and mathematics will be published by the award-winning arts publisher Tara Books in Fall 2016.
Eye on India is delighted to welcome Sunita Vatuk back to Chicago for our 2016 festival! Vatuk will be presenting at the Field Museum of Natural History, and conducing additional workshops for Chicago students. We are really excited for the fall workshops, as it feels wonderful to bring something so unique to the students of Chicago!