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High school pupils, university students and teachers across Nelson Mandela Bay are being challenged to use maths to create art, in the city’s first Math-Art Competition, which kicks off on March 3.

CREATIVE CONNECTIONS … Elsen Academy grade 8 maths pupil Olwen Johannes shares her ideas about using maths to create art with Philippa Fabbri, the school’s marketing director.


“There is so much maths in art, and so much art in maths,” said competition coordinator Carine Steyn from Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC), which is running the competition in consultation with the university’s School of Music, Art and Design (SoMAD), and the Department of Basic Education.

Entrants can turn to nature for inspiration, where flowers are really just parabolas and a snake’s skin a masterpiece of symmetry and perfect angles. They can also be inspired by ethno-mathematics – which are mathematically-correct designs that are a part of traditional culture, including Ndebele houses and Xhosa beadwork.

“What we are looking for is beautiful drawings, created using maths.”

GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier, who is the driving force behind this competition, said: “We are piloting the competition this year and hope to make it an annual event.

“The Math-Art Competition also feeds into the broader Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) development work of the GMMDC, and will include pupils and teachers participating in our projects across the province.”

The competition has two main categories – one linked to the Grade 8 to 12 CAPS curriculum, where entrants have to use maths concepts taught at school to design art; and the other an open category, which would include any artwork with a link to maths, including ethno-mathematics.

“The competition is valuable because it crosses discipline boundaries,” said Rachel Collett, a lecturer in SoMAD’s Visual Arts Department. “In school and at university, subjects are usually taught as separate entities, and there are reasons for this but, of course, all knowledge is actually connected and requires imagination. It’s good for learners to explore links between subjects because that can stimulate independent and critical creative enquiry.”

Steyn said: “We are encouraging art and maths teachers to enter – and to encourage their pupils to enter too. This competition is not about artistic technique. It’s more about the creativity that emerges out of linking maths and art.”

The artworks must be two-dimensional and A4 to A2 in size – and relief work cannot be more than 2cm high.  Each entrant must submit a 100 to 200-word essay, explaining the maths-art link in their artwork.

Prizes, which include tablets, cell phones and art classes, will go to the top-placed candidates and to individuals who receive “special recommendations” for outstanding creativity. Entries will be judged in the following sub-categories: Grade 8 to 9 pupils, Grade 10 to 12 pupils, students and teachers.

The competition closes on May 4, with the top entries displayed at a public art gallery in the city (venue to be confirmed) from May 19 to 23.

Winners will be announced on May 25, at GMMDC’s annual GeoGebra Conference, which will also be promoting STEAM activities to popularise maths in the classroom.

Visitors at the conference include the Dean of Arts and other delegates from the University of Budapest, which is a keen promoter of STEAM worldwide.

  • For more information about the Math-Art Competition, contact Carine Steyn at:

Contact information
Mr Werner Olivier
Consultant / Developer