LAMS Lunch Talks Math

Peering over statistics projects analyzing the repetition of certain patterns on ceramic pieces from different archaeological sites, students explored the real-life applications of math in art and history during the Library, Archives, Museums (LAMs) lunch on Tuesday.

The LAMs lunch is a monthly lunch during which faculty and students showcase Andover’s numerous resources on campus. Some of these resources evolve into project ideas, and different departments across campus collaborate to learn something new, Jamie Kaplowitz, Education Associate and Museum Learning Specialist at the Addison, said. This was the fifth LAMs lunch of the year.

The ceramics exhibit at the lunch was a collaboration between the Peabody Museum and the Math Department. The goal of the project was to find out which of the three locations had a higher proportion of ceramics that were black on red, black on white, or other.

“The black on red sherds are the newest, and the black on white ones are the oldest. Students in the statistics class counted all of the sherds at the different sites and ran an analysis,” said Marla Taylor, Collections Manager of the Peabody Museum.

Another table at the lunch on Tuesday had financial information that Andover has been collecting for over 75 years.

“There are teacher receipts, and even the salaries teachers got. Look here. It says John Adams was paid $30 in 1810. It is interesting to see how the salaries changed over the years,” said Paige Roberts, Director of the Archives. Roberts digitizes these archival items, which come from both the old Abbot Campus and Phillips Academy.

“I learned that I can participate in classes with the Peabody that intertwine trigonometry and archeology. My favorite part was learning what John Adams earned… when he worked here,” said Emma Murphy ’17.

Another one of the tables showed the correlation and connection between math and music by presenting several “mathematical” compositions, or songs that are composed using mathematical concepts. According to Carl Johnson, the W.B. Clift Head Music Librarian, “music has been fundamentally interrelated with mathematical concepts throughout history.”

“In the time of the Greeks, music was one of the sciences like math. It was not really considered an art at the time. In the earlier 20th century in Austria, rows of pitches would correspond to numbers,” said Johnson. “If you graph a parabola, that can even translate into music.”

One of the LAMs collective’s goals is to show how the different collections across campus connect thematically, as shown by collaborations such as that between the Peabody Museum and Math Department.

As of now, there are no concrete plans for the future, but the LAMs contributors are very open to working with teachers. Roberts is receptive to the idea of starting a project with the financial archives for anyone who loves math, she said.