Others, however, have seen that it can actually be something rather beautiful.
It’s this principle of finding the beauty in mathematics that underpins the forthcoming exhibition at Lincolnshire’s National Centre for Craft & Design, Beauty is the First Test.
The show’s title is taken from a 1940 essay by mathematician G H Hardy, in which he states, ‘The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful.
‘The ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.’
Casting our minds back to our scrawled GCSE exercise books, this is perhaps where this writer went wrong. Those doodles, while imaginative, were anything but beautiful.
The group show explores how mathematical concepts underpin craft techniques, aiming to ‘demystify a subject that intimates both adults and children’, according to the centre.
The exhibition demonstrates how mathematics is the foundation of activities such as knitting, stitching, measuring and cutting that are crucial to crafting and fabrication.
Showcasing works in disciplines including textiles and sculpture, the show will feature work from artists including Michael Brennand-Wood, Janice Gunner, Lucy McMullen and Ann Sutton.
Alongside the visual proof that maths can indeed be fun – and pretty – the exhibition also presents case studies of five makers, including Gail Baxter and Margo Selby, exploring how the development of their work was furthered by an understanding and appreciation of mathematics.
Beauty is the First Test runs form 27 April – 30 June at The National Centre for Craft & Design, Navigation Wharf, Carre Street, Sleaford, Lincolnshire NG34