Chicago Trip and Math

My husband and I just got back from a great trip in Chicago to celebrate our first year anniversary. I loved every part of our trip from the delicious food, enjoying a no-hitter game at Wrigley Field, walking the city, seeing iconic sights, and so much more. Even though we were there for absolutely nothing to do with work, I couldn’t help but become inspired by the math of the city. I decided to jot down my notes here so I don’t forget!

1. Chicago Architectural Tour: This was one of my favorite things we did. It was a 90 minute guided boat tour that took us along the Chicago River as we learned about the history of the city through the architecture. I definitely want to show my geometry students pictures from this and hopefully convince them through photos that math is truly used in professions, appreciated in everyday life, and highly sought after for beauty and meaning in a city. It was incredible to stand and look up at the enormous buildings as I visualized what it would be like to build one. I also found the history behind each structure to be really interesting from a math mindset. One of the first things our tour guide reminded us about was the Egyptians were very influenced by geometry in their early architecture. As we went along the river, we saw the transformation from early styles such as Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassical, to modern day styles. Some key buildings are below. IMG_0778The first building is the John Hancock building which I found really interesting because we learned that the X’s were intentionally structured on the outside of the building as a way to provide the building stability, allowing it to have no poles throughout the inside, and thus giving it a completely open concept.The second was a very iconic apartment and multi-functioning building used in several movies (I still need to find out what movies…but I know there was one where a car crashes out of the building and falls into the river). The circular shape meant a lot to the architect, Goldberg, with it’s aerodynamic features, lack of any corner rooms (often thought of as reserved for high society), and enabled all rooms to be centrally located to the center. IMG_6743 (1)Next, was a triangular shaped building which was again, designed intentionally, to allow residents to have more lakefront views than a square or rectangular shaped building.IMG_6766Then, there was one that was built right over a train and so the builders were tasked with how to safely design such a building. They designed it narrow enough at the base such that the train could pass by it, but then it will become wider as it goes up with the use of triangular frames.Displaying IMG_6760.JPG

Finally, the last one was really aesthetically pleasing and it wasn’t until our tour guide explained that it was designed as a map of the river with the red feature symbolizing a “you are here” spot, that I really appreciated the creativity and brilliance behind the design. 

2. The Ferris wheel at Navy Pier: While waiting in line for the Ferris wheel, I couldn’t help but notice the geometry behind the huge structure. I will definitely show these pictures to my students, and hopefully I can think of some cool project and/or investigation we can do with circles, arc length, area of a sector, etc. and Ferris wheels. Displaying IMG_6849.JPGDisplaying IMG_6829.JPG

3. The Bean (Cloud Gate): This is one of the most well known areas of Chicago and I’d love to learn more about the shape and structure of it. When I show this to my students, I’m curious to hear the words they would use to describe its shape. I think there are also some interesting reflective properties my students and I could talk about. For example, when you walk in the middle of the structure you can see the same reflection 4 times (I tried to capture this in the picture below.) My husband and I had fun finding ourselves in the mirrors and then I suddenly realized we could be using words like translated and reflected…I think this would be a cool example to show students when we discuss these terms. I think proportions and similarity could also be referenced with this structure when you think about how your image changes depending on where you stand in relation to it.

Thanks, Chicago, for an awesome trip and lots of learning!!

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