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'Multiplication Waterfall' visualizes math we would never otherwise do by hand

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Designer Stefanie Posavec has turned one her existing art projects — a way to colorfully visualize long, complex multiplication calculations — into a web app that any one can try.

multiplication waterfall
multiplication waterfall

It's commonplace today to throw long, complex calculations at a computer. But for designer Stefanie Posavec, hunkering down to multiply some big numbers by hand is a way to create art. For her 11 x piece, Posavec replaced each numeral with a colored shape, then applied them to complex multiplication problems. The results are some very cool visualizations. Swapping shapes for numbers shows off the amazing cascading patterns found in math. However, all of Posavec's original calculations were done by hand — a tedious process that few would choose to undertake. Thankfully, she teamed up with developer Hadrien Jouet to create Multiplication Waterfall, a web app that automates the process. While it somewhat defeats the original project's purpose of creating these visual flows by hand, it's much more accessible.

You can read about Posavec's motives for creating the math-based project, or visualize some problems for yourself, at the source links below. See if you can figure out which number each shape represents.