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Math and art are typically viewed as separate subjects on a divergent spectrum, but Lance Tripp is stretching to include both in his studies at Weber State University.
A junior in the mathematics education program, Tripp elected to declare a dance minor to follow his passion. Tripp was surprised to find that the two subjects complemented each other.
“Dance uses both sides of your brain. The right hemisphere is creative, the left hemisphere is logic. In dance you have to remember sequences. In math you have to remember sequences. They’re related. It’s challenging. I didn’t think dance was so hard.”
In speaking of their compatibility, Tripp said that “dance has helped me more with math than the other way around. That thinking helps me remember formulas, and to check my work. In trigonometry, we were supposed to remember positives and negatives, and I remembered that All Students Take Calculus. That creative thinking helps me remember things. If I think linearly in dance, it doesn’t help me. I lose my creativity. But it does help me to count, and with my choreography.”
Joanne L. Lawrence, a dance professor at WSU, said she’s not surprised that the two subjects work so well together.
“I don’t think they’re all that different,” she said. “Both areas really are creative. I can’t speak for math on authority, but when you really get into it, you see potentialities. It’s part of the creative process for both.”
Lawrence isn’t alone in thinking this. Dance professor Erik Stern has presented this concept at the TEDx conference.
“As choreographers, much of our work springs from play with ideas from the world of mathematics,” Stern said. “As teachers, we have found that mathematical ideas become more exciting, tangible and memorable when you act them out with your whole body.”
Outside of mathematics, one of Tripp’s favorite things that he’s learned through studying dance is movement somatics.
“Somatics is learning how to move. We get taught how to dance, but not how to move. Movement is the big secret in turning a dancer into a professional dancer.”
Tripp looks to teach math at the high school level, while also teaching dance. He said he hopes to share what he has found in his correlation between his math studies and fine arts.
“I want to teach mathematics in high school, and teach dance as an elective. I would love to find a way to combine the two.”
With art programs disappearing from public schools, Tripp said he wants to show their importance from experience.
“I think the arts are very important. My family lives in North Dakota. The high school has 10 students in total, and the arts are ignored. They’re using only their left hemisphere. They’re losing their right side. Art gives us different ways of thinking. It’s more kinesthetic, at least dance is. The human body was meant to move, and it helps us learn. You have to have balance in your life. You can’t just use one or the other.”
Tripp said he owes a great deal to his study of the arts, and encourages students of all programs to study them.
“Dance has taught me confidence. Dance has helped me learn to perform in front of a large group of people. Everyone is afraid to change. It’s something entirely new. Why change when you’ve done something the same way? Because you gain confidence. The arts have changed my way of thinking. I thought life had rules, like PEMDAS, order of operations, and that was the way that things were always going to be. Art has shown me that there are more options. It doesn’t have to be the same. It won’t always be the same.”