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Thinking Too Much
Jul 12 '14

"While fractal geometry is often used in high-tech science, its patterns are surprisingly common in traditional African designs," said Ron Eglash, senior lecturer in comparative studies in the humanities. Eglash is author of African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design (Rutgers University Press, 1999).

Eglash said his work suggests that African mathematics is more complex than previously thought. He also says using African fractals in U.S. classrooms may boost interest in math among students, particularly African Americans. He has developed a Web page to help teachers use fractal geometry in the classroom. (

Fractals are geometric patterns that repeat on ever-shrinking scales. Many natural objects, like ferns, tree branches, and lung bronchial systems are shaped like fractals. Fractals can also be seen in many of the swirling patterns produced by computer graphics, and have become an important new tool for modeling in biology, geology, and other natural sciences.

In African Fractals, Eglash discusses fractal patterns that appear in widespread components of indigenous African culture, from braided hairstyles and kente cloth to counting systems and the design of homes and settlements.