This morning I was on a panel about math and creativity with two wonderful panelists. One was Tim Chartier (Davidson College) who spoke about his journey as a mathematical mime. The other was Robert Schneider (Emory University) who talked about his experiences as a musician and composer. I was on the panel in the capacity of podcaster, and I suppose a general mathematical storyteller. The panel was moderated by Samuel Hansen the podcaster behind Relatively Prime.
It was so wonderful to hear Schneider and Chartier talk about their own journeys of mathematical creativity. We all had some goal in common, that Chartier expressed very eloquently. We, as mimes, musicians, and storytellers, are really creating models of mathematical ideas. Not to be confused with mathematical models. But the things we create are meant to represent an idea in math, if not rigorously capture it. As a mathematical communicator this is always somewhat of a delicate issue. Professionally, we know that math is meaningless without rigor, but creatively, we know it’s possible to still capture some of the beauty and excitement of math if we just file down the edges a bit.
What became obvious to me on this panel, was also that each of us seems to be doing what comes naturally to us. Whether making music, miming, or telling stories, it seems like each of us had just found a way to capture and package the mathematical things that we would be doing anyways.