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Nov. 6, 2018
By Tara Garcia, communication assistant
Dr. Mary Shepherd, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Northwest Missouri State University, has contributed a chapter in “Figuring Fibers,” a mathematical exploration of fiber arts including knitting, crocheting, quilting and sewing.
Shepherd’s chapter, “Variations of Snake Trail Quilting Patterns,” explores the mathematics of the snake trail quilt pattern. The chapter includes two sections, “Snake’s trail quilt blocks” and “Snake’s trail pattern types.”
“When looking deeper into another quilt pattern, I was reading a book and it pointed out the snake in a hollow-maze pattern,” Shepherd said. “The book claimed this pattern is secretly guarded and passed from quilt-maker to quilt-maker. I started researching sources on the internet and I went to the quilt museum in Nebraska. There appear to be no living quilt-makers that make this pattern anymore.”
Shepherd’s goal was to figure out how to create and execute the whole pattern. She wanted to find the mathematical reason behind the pattern.
“I finally figured out how to do what needed to be done,” Shepherd said. “I could do it from the intuitive point of view, but I had to understand graph theory to make sense of it mathematically.”
Shepherd joined the Northwest faculty in 2001, and her academic interests include differential geometry, reading mathematics and undergraduate mathematics education. She has a Ph.D. and master’s degree in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s in accountancy from the University of Oklahoma, and a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University. She is the former chair and co-chair of Missouri Math Pathways Taskforce and former governor of the Missouri section of the Mathematical Association of America.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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