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MATH 180 A: Topics in Mathematics for Non-Science Majors

Meeting Time: 
MW 9:30am - 11:20am
ART 229
Joint Sections: 
ART 255 A
Jayadev S. Athreya

Syllabus Description:

Art 255 + Math 180: Making Meaning: ART and MATHEMATICS as EMBODIED PRACTICES

MW 9:30-11:20 Room: ART229


Timea Tihanyi Office: Art 209 

Jayadev Athreya Office: Padelford C-419

For questions about administrative and housekeeping issues (registration, absences, grade inquiries, etc.), please email both instructors. 

 Office hours: Email for appointment. We respond in <24Hours. 

A circular screenprint in red and black, showing images of 4 figures around the edges and one symmetrical design in the center. Artwork by Susan Point.

Susan Point Behind Four Winds, 2012. Screenprint on paper. Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery.

Important First Week Note: Per the UW Instructional Guidance, our first class meeting is REMOTE. See Zoom link in this announcement Welcome to Art255/Math180 joint course - Important information for the start of the quarter or in the Course Schedule.

Important Registration Note: This course has the identical coursework, requirements, and grading criteria, regardless of which section (ART255 or MATH180) students sign up for. As of Nov. 25th, the ART255 section is full, but there are still seats in MATH180. 

First day note: SOA+AH+D First day attendance policy for art classes:

Instructors assume that if you are not present for roll call on the first day of a studio art class you have decided not to remain enrolled. If you miss the first day without permission, your seat becomes open and it is your responsibility to drop the course.

Open seats will be made available to unregistered student present on the first day. 

Quick link to Course Schedule

Course Description

What does it mean to create meaning in the intersection of two disciplines? Explore, through projects of making, a timeless and dialogue between art and mathematics. We will focus our inquiry on diverse global cultural traditions of embodied making, thinking, and imagining, such as  Micronesian stick charts, Central African (Angolan) Sona drawings, Andean quipus, Coast Salish wool and basket weaving, South Asian kolam, French Baroque wallpaper designs and contemporary dance.

Students will experiment with mathematical ideas, such as Euclidean and non-Euclidean space and geometry, symmetries and transformations, tilings (tessellations), as well as various algorithmic processes, in a variety of media including lens-less photography, fiber arts, and movement practices.

This is a studio course, consisting of a series of studio assignments, which are experimental, but were designed to build skills and explore mathematical ideas through making. Ideas taken from these projects may also be further developed into an expanded range of interdisciplinary projects, from textile pieces, to sculptures, performances, programming, digital or time-based media.

Students are requested to play an ACTIVE, PATIENT, and GENEROUS role in their own learning and that of their classmates. We can achieve this by experimenting with unfamiliar ideas and processes, sharing out what you gained from your experimentation, and having an open attitude towards the yet-to-be-discovered.  

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are planning class times in a way that allows the students increased flexibility and less dependence on studio resources at the School. If you are feeling sick and/or have any symptom of Covid or the flu, please stay home and get well/get tested. If you must be absent from class, make sure that the check-in points are still being met and contact instructor for discussing how to catch up. At the very least, you must submit deliverables to Canvas with your specific questions (what do you need feedback on?) and email the instructor for an appointment to discuss them. Absences put an additional burden on both you and your instructor. They should be rare and justified. 

During class times, we are going to focus on individual project consultations, discussions, team work, peer group critiques, guest artist workshops and presentations, hands-on reviews of technical information based on your individual project needs.  We will also suggest Optional Explorations, which will help deepen your understanding of certain concepts. These non-mandatory explorations should be done on your own time, and can be submitted to us for feedback/discussion, and if submitted can contribute to your class participation score.

Students are responsible for meeting, fully prepared, all designated check-in points throughout the quarter in-person, as stated on the course schedule. No exceptions. Flexibility and independence comes with a great responsibility for you to get as much out of our class times together as possible. 

Step-by-step technical demonstrations will be done in class and resources to these are also available online. Students are responsible for reviewing these ahead of time for each class. During class time, we can revisit details for further clarification and address your individual technical questions, but do not expect a repeat of the demos. Student projects must demonstrate, with fluency, at least 2 of the main making processes/art practices and at least 2 of math concepts presented within the framework of the assignment.  

Studio work-times are designated on the Schedule and may be accomplished in the classroom during class times, in the classroom space outside of our scheduled class times, in the IVA LINK space, or in your home workspace. If you are interested in working in the Art building outside of regular hours, you must have a confirmed building access (see Art Advising for details).

Budget the equivalent of in-class studio time  + assignment homework studio time (together appr. 10+ hours/week) for completing the assignments. You may find that many of the processes are quite relaxing (flow state of mind), but they also may take longer than expected. Find ways to integrate some of the making process into your daily life!

Materials and tools for practicing the basic techniques and some additional supply will be provided in class. These are covered by the course fee. Please consult the instructor about which of these can and which cannot be taken out of the classroom. 

In addition, each of the projects will require that you obtain your own materials and basic tools. Suggestions for these and for the suppliers will be available in the assignment. Expect to spend a total of $30-60+ during the quarter on supplies, depending on your project idea.  Free materials are available through the SOA+AH+D Materials Library (check with Art Advising about access). Consider reuse/recycle stores for attaining supplies.  

Field trips to the Burke Museum, the Collections of the Henry Art Gallery, and to additional Seattle art and cultural venues will be offered on a few occasions throughout the quarter. This is a great way to observe works of art from close up. Be sure to bring your camera and sketch book. 



There are 2 short and 2 long assignments. Assignments are presented within learning modules complete with both making and math resources. Take full advantage of the resource pages and use them frequently. They contain all the information you will need for the project and they are also a good starting place for further research. 

Assignment #1 &2 are short assignments, using geometry, space, some objects, the moving body, and lens-less photography. Our guest artist is dancer and choreographer Maureen Whiting and mathematician Frank Farris. Weeks 1-4

Assignment #3 takes us on a journey to algorithmic processes and iterative patterning, using natural wool and the Coast Salish traditional weaving technique. Our guest artist is Dr. Susan Pavel, Skokomish weaver. Weeks 4-8

Assignment #4: is our class Final Project. It's a team project that gives you an opportunity to synthesize all the information from the quarter and create something new with it. There are 3 options: Narrative (creates a podcast or interview), Object (makes an artwork), or Educational (conceptualizes a toy or a game that teaches kids a mathematical idea). Weeks 8-Final


Roll up your sleeve and bring your curiosity!


Course Objectives/Learning Goals

    • Develop a comfortable engagement with cross-disciplinary thinking/making practices.
    • Practice overlapping strategies (toolkits) of artistic and scientific thinking, idea generation, and problem solving.
    • Identify successful tools and methods of learning by making. Be able to relate to examples of process by various practitioners introduced in class.
    • Invent and construct alternative aesthetic, formal, and conceptual solutions appropriate for the assignment.
    • Develop strategies necessary to successfully work in teams.
    • Develop self-awareness and ability to reflect on the creative process.



Your final grade will be determined by the following:

Assignment #1 & #2 (See details in Assignment grading + meeting assignment check-points, and general preparedness for class)              2 x 15%

Assignment #3 and Final Project  (See details in Assignment grading + meeting assignment check-points, and general preparedness for class)              2 x 25%

Participation (active contributions made to in-class activities, such as team work, class discussions, peer and group critiques) + Optional Explorations + Professional manner (individual effort invested, commitment, progress)    20%


Assignment grading will be based on the following criteria:

  • Ideation, research and thought process. Depth of understanding with mathematical concepts presented in class;
  • Design and development of form. Ability to apply to the creative challenge math concepts and art practices presented in class;
  • Development (evidence of complexity, appropriateness to assignment criteria and personal goals, considerations for materials, scale and presentation);
  • Craft: fluency with at least 2 of demonstrated techniques from each assignment;
  • Experimentation: Going beyond basic solutions, exploring further material, technical, functional and interdisciplinary potentials. Exhibiting drive and passion for the project. 

Note: Feedback and evaluation of the finished assignment is done during class presentation and critique. Scores on Canvas are a form of documenting the main points of the feedback and evaluating the project by the above listed set of criteria. It is important that you consult the rubric to see which areas need more attention, and thus, improvement, and which are those that have been most successful.

The maximum to earn on each criterium is 10pts.

9-10 points: most complete and successful in that aspect;

7-8 points: together in fundamental aspects but has other smaller issues to still resolve;

5-6 point: together in fundamental aspects but has one or two important issues to still resolve,

3-4 points: need significantly more resolution, even in the fundamentals.

0-2: completely unresolved in all aspects.


How does the final total percentage system translate into grades?




































Lowest passing grade.




Academic failure.
No credit earned.

35 and below 


Interpretation of the Course Grading Scale:

3.9-4.0 The highest possible performance in all aspects of the course with work exemplifying exceptional quality. Exhibits outstanding creative potential.

3.5-3.8 Exhibits creative potential with superior performance in most aspects of the course; high quality in the remainder. Well prepared for subsequent courses in the field.

3.2-3.4 High performance in most aspects of the course. Very good chance of success in subsequent courses in the field. Exhibits some creative potential.

2.9-3.1 Good performance in some of the course; satisfactory performance in the remainder. Exhibits some creative potential. Good chance of success in subsequent courses in the field.

2.5-2.8 Demonstrates the minimum amount of research needed to complete the course with satisfactory performance.

2.1-2.4 Met basic requirements in most of the course, with the remainder being somewhat substandard.

2.0 and below Did not meet basic requirements for class.


Important information about student conduct

Absences and missed assignment check-points, activities, and due dates:

  • Check Canvas regularly, at least twice a week, for updates (Go to Schedule).
  • Stuff can happen. Communicate with the instructors early and frequently.  Don't wait until the problem gets bigger. We are here to help you navigate and successfully complete the course. 
  • Missed assignment due dates and missed assignment critiques will result in no credit for that assignment. Missed in-class activities, for example, peer reviews and discussions, do not have remote alternative, and will result in partial credit.
  • Class times that require your participation are clearly listed on the schedule. Absence from these will result in lost participation credits, negatively affecting the final grade.
  • Contact the instructors in person by the end of week 2 if you have a planned absence due to religious observation, important family or life event. Please plan ahead. Accommodations can only be made with proper notification of the instructor and by demonstrating a clear plan for making up.
  • Contact the instructors via email as soon as possible if you need to miss a class due to unforeseen emergency (including staying away due to signs of illness, possible Covid exposure, positive testing, quarantining, inclement weather commute, any sort of medical, personal or family situation). Set-up a schedule for making up of missed checkpoints, work time, and deliverables. Accommodations will only be made with proper notification and in consultation with instructors.
  • If you must be absent, follow up on Canvas on your own to review activities, demos, and assignment guidelines. We have a buddy-system for reaching out to get class notes and additional information missed; please reach out to them. Contact the instructors if you have specific questions that were not answered by the previous sources.
  • Inclement weather/snow: consult UW site for campus closures. If campus is open (classes are held) but you are unable to commute, follow instructions for unforeseen emergency. As soon as you are able to, you are required to check Canvas and UW email for instructor’s messaging with regard to schedule changes (demos, assignments, deliverables and available online resources). Notify the instructors if your commute or internet situation are expected to last past the campus  closure day/s.
  • Plagiarism is using the creations, ideas, words, inventions, or images of someone else in  your own work without formal acknowledgement or permission. This applies to written  papers and research as well as to art, design and architectural creations. Instances of plagiarism will be reported to Community Standards & Student Conduct (CSSC) and will result in Academic Misconduct procedure. 

Covid Precautions/In Case of Feeling Ill:

  • All individuals are required to wear a face covering indoors, regardless of vaccination status, when on site at a University of Washington location. This requirement is applicable indoors when other people are present and in all public and common areas, including, but not limited to classrooms, shared studio spaces, lobbies, hallways, stairways, restrooms, and elevators.
  • UW Face covering requirements
  • No eating and drinking in the classroom/studio. Use designated areas for eating/drinking. 
  • If you are sick and/or have any symptom listed here, you MUST stay at home and get better. DO NOT come to class, but DO contact the instructor (see above for unforeseen emergencies).
  • See
  • Sign up for Husky Coronavirus testing
  • As a reminder, if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, unexplained headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms- even if you are fully vaccinated:

    1. Stay Home, do not go to work or class, or to any public location (except a health care facility/testing site).
    2. Get tested. Enroll in the Husky Coronavirus Testing program or read the University COVID-19 FAQ, I want to get tested for COVID-19. Where can I go?
    3. If you test positive, notify UW Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) at or 206-616-3344.
  • If someone else in the class tests positive: Individuals identified as having been in “close contact” with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 are contacted by the University’s contact tracing team and provided instructions for getting tested, monitoring for symptom and, if needed, quarantining. “Close contact” is defined as being within six feet for at least 15 minutes cumulatively during a 24-hour period.
  • Although EH&S will provide advice in situations of potential classroom exposure, quarantining is not necessary for students and faculty who are vaccinated and not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. If you are not being contacted and if you are vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine. 

In Class:

  • Always have some new development to show. Little steps go a long way. We cannot discuss your work without actually looking at some physical evidence of it. Have a dedicated sketchbook and collect ideas, research notes, reading summaries, and technical notes all in one place.
  • Prep work: research, materials, plans/mock-ups, material tests, work in progress are an essential part of the development of each project. Make sure to meet the preparation check points as listed on Canvas Schedule. Failure to do so will result in loss of points at assignment grading.
  • Participate! Add relevant content to the topical discussions and group activities. Ask questions and interact with the instructor and your peers.
  • Electronics (laptops, tablets, phones and other smart devices) are only allowed when the instructor calls for their use.  Outside of these times, turn off and put these away.
  • No headphones or earbuds in during class time.


Scheduled final exam time  Wednesday, March 16th 8:30-10:20pm on FINALS WEEK


Technology Support and Resources

Building policies:  

Art building is open to the public Mon-Fri, 8am-6:20pm. 

  • Students enrolled in studio classes and accepted SoA+AH+D undergraduate majors and graduate students can have their Husky Cards programmed to access the Art Building after-hours.
  • After-hours access is permitted only through the loading dock door facing Chelan Lane, near the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. Tapping your pre-programmed Husky Card at the terminal grants entry.
  • Students may request after-hours access to the Art Building for course-related work by filling out this form. Students will need to use their UW G Suite account to access the application form. Please allow two business days after completing the form for access to  be assigned.


Renting a locker: visit the Admin Office in Room 102. Lockers are $12 a quarter (cash, check, credit card, and husky card are accepted). 


SOA+AH+D Policy

Policies 2021-22.docx 

Religious Accommodations Policy

“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( policy/)Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using theReligious Accommodations Request Form.”

Catalog Description: 
Current topics in mathematics. Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Last updated: 
September 14, 2022 - 10:56pm