Maths Craft New Zealand’s second Christchurch festival was held on Sunday 1st July in The Great Hall and in The Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in The Arts Centre. Over 1,100 visitors explored maths through crafts at our free day-long event, which featured eight craft creation stations in The Great Hall and one in The Teece Museum, along with public lectures given by mathematicians, crafters, and classicists. Our hands-on craft stations were staffed by a trained team of volunteers drawn from University of Canterbury students and staff, from local school teachers, and from a growing pool of experienced volunteers from other Maths Craft New Zealand events. These volunteers guided our visitors through the maths and the craft at the craft stations: Möbius strips, mathematical colouring and drawing, knitted knots, Menger cubes, origami, flexagons, crocheted hyperbolic planes, meanders, and string art.
Our first visitors to the Maths Craft Day arrived as soon as our doors opened at 10am, continued steadily throughout the day, and were still arriving as we were preparing to close at 5pm. There was a bustling but relaxed atmosphere in which our visitors could easily get to the craft stations and have the attention of our enthusiastic volunteers. Visitors had plenty of time to explore the crafts at the station, and to enjoy the many maths craft objects on display at the stations and in display cabinets. Like last year, we had several crafting tables at which visitors could sit and work together on their chosen craft, but this year, people also chose to sit on the floor in the middle of the Hall. It was a moving and inspiring sight to see a floor full of people working in family groups to understand beautiful mathematical concepts while working with their hands to make beautiful craft objects. People stayed for hours, and we even spotted a few enthusiastic visitors who stayed all day.
Three free public lectures were held in the Recital Room of UC Arts, next to The Teece Museum and just across the quad from The Great Hall, and were attended by dozens of visitors of all ages. The first talk was given by Ms Elizabeth Chesney, a University of Canterbury student and retired school teacher from Christchurch, who talked about knitting mathematical knots and the mathematical theory behind them. We were delighted that our second public lecture was given by mathematician Prof Graham Farr of Monash University, Australia.
Graham spoke to a large audience about the mathematics of Bill Tutte, a leading codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, who later made many important contributions to mathematics. Graham’s talk on “Making Links and Breaking Codes” introduced some serious but accessible mathematics, including examples which have been made into craft objects. Our final speaker was Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, Head of Classics at the University of Canterbury, who gave a fascinating talk on the art and culture of the ancient world, and its connections with mathematics.
Maths Craft New Zealand and the School of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Canterbury are now the proud custodians of The Derrick Breach Collection of Polyhedra. At the Christchurch Maths Craft Day we were privileged to be able to share a number of objects from the collection with the Maths Craft audience for the first time. Incorporating more than 300 models painstakingly crafted from paper by mathematician Derrick Breach, the collection is widely acknowledged as being without parallel in the Southern Hemisphere. Derrick made the collection during his tenure at the University of Canterbury in the period from the early 1970s through to the mid-1990s. Following his death in 1996, a dedicated gallery and teaching space was established to showcase these extraordinary objects to individuals, school tour groups, and university students alike. Regrettably this popular outreach activity was ended by the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. Planning is underway to once again enable the community to step into the Breach and be filled with wonder at one man’s labour of love to mathematics and craft, and this first public outing of the polyhedra in many years was an important first step. The dedicated Derrick Breach Collection display cabinet was surrounded by fascinated visitors all day long.
It was wonderful to have another successful event in our home town of Christchurch, in the stunning setting of The Great Hall, to build on our relationship with The Teece Museum and UC Arts, and to forge news connections to mathematicians in Australia. We thank all of the sponsors of the 2018 Christchurch Maths Craft Day, and look forward to our future events with excitement.