Friday, September 25, 2015

Poetry Friday - Math Storytelling Day and Infinity

Today is Math Storytelling Day. In honor of this auspicious event, I'm sharing a video, a book, and some related poems.

A wonderful book to accompany this video is The Cat In Numberland, written by Ivar Ekeland and illustrated by John O'Brien. David Hilbert, a mathematician interested in how infinity works and different sizes of infinities, first made up the basic story (see video above). In this version of the story, Mr. and Mrs. Hilbert run a hotel called the Hotel Infinity. That cat who lives there becomes confused when the Hilberts are able to find room for new guests, even when the hotel is full.  
To learn more about the book, see this comprehensive review from the American Mathematical Society.

Let's wrap this up today with a few poems about infinity.

by William Blake

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

by Jacob Bernoulli (a 17th century mathematician)

Even as the finite encloses an infinite series
And in the unlimited limits appear,
So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia
And in narrowest limits no limit in here.
What joy to discern the minute in infinity!
The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity!

Revelation At Midnight
by Piet Hein (a Danish mathematician known for writing gruks)

Infinity's taken
by everyone
as a figure-of-eight
written sideways on.
But all of a sudden
I now comprehend
that eight is infinity
standing on end.

That's it for me on this Friday. I do hope you'll take some time to check out all things poetry being shared and collected today by Janet Wong over at Poetry for Children. Happy poetry Friday friends! 


  1. I had no idea it was math storytelling day! I'm so glad you pointed that out and shared the story and the poems. I think I'll celebrate by writing a math poem today.

  2. Fascinating, Tricia. I've had students working with Bernoulli's principle, but never thought to look for a poem by him. I like it a lot! The book looks so interesting, and I'll share this with former colleagues.

  3. I love the idea of infinity. In my own poetry I have played with the idea of the finite and infinite. Blake's poem is one of my favorites. Thanks for also sharing that video. It's a wonderful exploration.

  4. Wait...what? Different SIZES of infinity? My mind is officially blown!

  5. Hi, Tricia, and thanks for joining us for Poetry Friday and for introducing me to Math Storytelling Day!