Knot tying gives us an opportunity to practice the art of translating two-dimensional illustrations into three-dimensional representations.

Tell me more: Studying, deconstructing, and working knots with our hands is a experience that allows us to practice some of the skills that are critical to creative work. Designers often make sense of problems by first thinking about them or making a quick sketch, and then translating these illustrations into physical models. Knots invite us to practice this translation over and over again, with small modifications of hand movements or body position. Like mathematical work, there are correct and incorrect interpretations of these forms, and their efficacy depends on precision. Knot tying is an exercise in spatial thinking; in practice and iteration; in geometry and algebra and scientific models; and beautiful simplicity.

Classroom Applications: In elementary classrooms, we might have a conversation about how we each tie our shoes, and about how different knots are used for different purposes. Knot-tying can be transformed into games and puzzles in physical education and math classrooms alike. We invite older students to master a single knot and then devise ways of teaching each other through written instructions and illustrated diagrams. We also like working in reverse: Begin with a completed knot, and decipher how it is made. In our workshops with educators, we use knot-tying as a way to explore the idea of practice.

Go Further

  • Search for syllabi from courses about Knot Theory. We also use Philippe Petit’s book “Why Knot?” (from which we found the thumbnail for this page!)