Last night I went to square dance class again, and I realized another reason why I like this dance so much. Square dancing is like math in motion, a fluid geometry. The pattern breaks and reforms with the whim of the caller. We start in squares, moving to circles and lines. Our sets break up and then overlap, forming new equations. We start with one partner and move on to others during the middle of the song. The caller creates these patterns as she instructs us, solving the square as she goes. No matter how much she mixes us up, she wants us to end up with our original partner by the end of the dance. Sometimes she gets stumped, but she tries to get us back to our original position using only the calls. Square dancing is where Busby Berkeley meets Rubik’s Cube.
I love math. I’ve always loved math. I remember being really small and loving those worksheets where you circle things you’ve added or counted. As I got older I learned to adore algebra. I took algebra class for fun during my lunch hour when I was in eighth grade. In high school I fell head over heels for geometry. I used to wish we had more proofs to do for homework because I was so entertained. Then there was the math team. We had competitive meets at other schools, solving complex problems together as fast as we could. Each section of the problem depended on the last solver. We could only win if we all got it right. It’s the same in square dancing—if one person messes up, the whole square is scrambled.
I think I love math and square dancing for some of the same reasons. In a world of randomness, I love the precision. It’s nice to see patterns, and it’s great when everything is solved at the end of the puzzle. I also love square dancing because it’s a visual representation of how much prettier things can be if everyone cooperates. It’s the same in math—if your logic flows smoothly your paper has far less erasures. Challenge, and beauty, and order—what joy!
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
76. What are some of the things that you enjoy? Can you see a pattern emerging? Are they similar in some way you’ve never before considered? What does that tell you about yourself?