Ohio University

Pattern and Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics

Pattern and Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics

Sally Fowler, Bob Klein and Henry Fowler

Drawing from the Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy Southwest Native American Collection, this exhibition explores Diné (Navajo) weaving design from the perspective of their traditions and beliefs, and how fundamental mathematical ideas are also embedded in the designs. Among the Diné weaving is regarded as a spiritual act, rooted in the earth, and an expression of their place in the world. Mathematics are integral not only to the designs, but also to Diné cosmology. Many designs include inconsistencies and imperfections, sometimes purposefully, acknowledging the contradictions in life, but also affirming the will to achieve harmony. The curators of this exhibition met through their work on Navajo Math Circles—collaborations between mathematicians, students and teachers in the Navajo Nation. In a math circle, questions matter most in problem-solving. This exhibit reflects this spirit by posing questions as a central part of the experience. You, the viewer, are invited to explore these designs to discover the mathematical structures that are intrinsic to them.