Neighborhood walking: Math street art near the Dutch Goose

by Linda Hubbard on April 7, 2020

Menlo Park resident Cindy Tipton tipped us about this math art in front of math expert Paula Hamilton’s house near the Dutch Goose. Paula explained the project:

“We created the math street art this past Monday. We’ve so enjoyed everyone else’s street and sidewalk designs and wanted to contribute to the community in a mathy way.

“Last week (prior to virtual spring break), I did brainstorming with my 6th grade virtual math enrichment class, asking them to think about holding a party for 19 people where everyone had to be six feet apart from each other. Their challenge was to come up with the design that used the least amount of area while still maintaining social distancing. The regular hexagon on the street has an area of 216 x root(3) (about 374) feet squared.

“All of the students had great ideas. There were ideas of aligning people in rectangular, square, and circular formats. One student in class came up with a design that used a smaller area than the hexagonal street design. She suggested we line up everyone in a straight line, 6 feet apart from each other. Since people would be on a straight line, you could perhaps decide the straight-line party would have an area of 0 feet squared.

“However, we decided that people do have a width associated with them so we’d really be calculating the area of a long narrow rectangle with dimensions of 18 intervals x 6 ft long x 2 ft wide = 216 feet squared. While we liked the minimal area of the rectangular design, we decided it wouldn’t be a very social party if you could only talk to the person next to you in the straight line design.

“I then shared the hexagonal design and we had interesting discussions about which point you’d want to be located at on the design, how would you ‘people load’ the design while practicing social distancing and how could you rotate points during the party to allow for more people connections.

I’m attaching the Geogebra model (above right) we designed to help us with our street creation. My 12th grade son (sheltering in place with us) helped me with the street art. We had a great time putting this out there along with our message: “After shelter in place, a map for a 19 person 6 ft party.” It probably took us more time to write the message than it took for us to map out the hexagon.

“We’re looking forward to having a party on the design when we’re able to be social again. In the meantime, it’s great to stand on one of the intersection points and get a true feel for how far 6 feet is from you (each intersection point is 6 feet away from any adjacent intersection points).”

Footnote: A reminder that if you do walk by and “test drive” Paula’s street art, do so only with people from your own household per Dr. Scott Morrow’s directive on March 31st which prohibits contact with anyone who isn’t in your household.

Photo by Cindy Tipton (c) 2020


Michelle Julian April 09, 2020 at 10:55 am

This is awesome! I’d love to try it with my 7th graders. I can’t find the GeoGebra model. Could someone send it to me?

Roberta Morris April 10, 2020 at 11:44 am

A big thank you to Paula – and also to Linda and Cindy. We’ve passed this a few times on our neighborhood walks and smiled and studied each time. I tried to take a photo, too, but it was near sunset. Cindy’s photo is beautiful.

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