3 Ways a Math Person is Really an Artist

So you’ve been pigeonholed as a “math person,” but you know the truth: You’re an artist! You want do something with your life that will allow you to express this about yourself, but your parents and teachers have other plans. Do you really have to choose between your mathematical side and your creative side? As a former mathlete and current harpist and music teacher, I understand the dilemma. So how can you translate your talents into a career you love?

Animation is a common way math is continually incorporated in stunning movies such as Frozen, Toy Story, and Up. Coding allows you to build highly-engaging, beautifully-designed websites.

Here are three other careers that showcase the artistic side of math:

1. Audio Engineering

Audio engineer

Image courtesy of Brian A. Petersen

If you’re reading this and therefore interested in math and the arts, chances are good you’re already a musician on some level. Music and math go hand-in-hand, as the mathematician, philosopher, and harpist Pythagoras (he of the “Theorem”) discovered long ago: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings.” And we still study that geometry.

One of the most practical ways to combine your two passions is in a career as an audio engineer. Audio engineering, broadly speaking, is the scientific and mathematical study of sound. Audio engineers turn music in a room into recordings for the world, and they’re an essential part of the music industry. But those skills can also translate into many other practical careers, including developing new sound technologies electronically, modifying instruments acoustically, and perfecting the acoustics of architectural spaces. It is a great way to combine your worlds of math and music.

2. Architecture

NYC building

Image courtesy of moonman82

Architecture is one of the most practical of art forms; architects build the places where we live and work. And isn’t it nice to live and work in beautiful, functional places? Well, buildings are built on mathematical principles. The Pyramids are, well, pyramids, after all. Classical buildings like the Parthenon were built to fit a geometric ratio called the Golden Mean. And modern architecture is no different: if you see beauty in geometry, you can translate it into form in architecture. (Think of Frank Gehry’s curvilinear buildings.) But, perhaps more importantly, to be an architect you have to be mathematically competent in geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and finite math to make buildings structurally sound.

3. Cinematography

Students shooting a film

Image courtesy of Vancouver Film School

Do you love color, line, and form? The visual arts have always been mathematical, and every once in a while a better understanding of math will revolutionize the arts. Renaissance painters created, well, a Renaissance by giving their paintings the illusion of depth, and they did so mathematically, through the use of linear perspective. Photography revolutionized how we thought about painting, through the science of optics. Today there are a thousand ways to use your mathematician’s instincts for line and color in the visual arts. Artists are employed in marketing, web design, photojournalism — the list goes on. But the art of cinematography is just one great way to combine your artistic and mathematical talents into one interesting and fulfilling career: composition, line, color on the one hand, and all of the technology, optics, and chromatics of videography on the other. And maybe you’ll win an Oscar!

The truth is that every artistic pursuit has a mathematical — these are just a few. So don’t let that outdated left-brain, right-brain idea scare you off from pursuing the career you love. Whatever you do, use your whole brain!

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