Tying It Together: Math teacher using Girl Scout passion for creative geometic inspiration

Math Teacher Julie Kirkpatrick has a knack for combining her fondness of Girl Scouts and mathematics into her daily lessons with the help of topology.

“Topology, or at least geometric topology, is the study of properties of spaces that are kept the same through deformation like stretching and bending, but not tearing. Another way to think about it is the study of geometrical objects without considering things such as angles, lengths or shape,” Kirkpatrick said.

“A particular field of low dimensional geometric topology is knot theory, the study of mathematical objects called knots. One can imagine a mathematical knot as a knot that one would tie with strong, but the ends are fused together to form a closed object and the string is infinitely stretchy,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick’s journey in topology all started when her professor suggested an independent research project. “I got interested in geometric topology in a Euclidean geometry class taught by Dr. TJ Hitchman. He saw that I was a big nerd and a hard worker and asked if I wanted to do an independent research project with him. I said yes, not knowing what we would study,” Kirkpatrick said.

During this experience Kirkpatrick knew she had made the right choice of her independent study. “The joy of working on an open problem is knowing that no one else has solved this particular issue in mathematics; you’re literally inventing and discovering the math,” Kirkpatrick said.

Job opportunities are slim for topologist.

“There aren’t a ton of practical applications with the field, and most of the careers that deal with topology are academic in nature: professor, mathematician, microbiologist, robotics engineer, etc.,” she said.

Kirkpatrick was a given the opportunity to be a professor in New Hampton, N.Y., but in turn chose to be a mathematics teacher at CF.

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