WCU’s Bill Kreahling (left) and Julie Barnes are co-authors of “Coloring Book of Complex Function Representations,” which has become popular on the math circuit.

Western Carolina University professor of mathematics Julie Barnes was working with Beth Schaubroeck, a professor of mathematics at the Air Force Academy, on a research project related to complex numbers when the two noticed their work was generating some interesting images.

As they continued writing their math, Barnes noticed that the images resembled those found in adult coloring books. So, they decided to put together a complex function coloring book as holiday presents for friends and family.

The book was a hit among their mathematician and non-mathematician friends and family – even neighbors wanted copies. While attending a Mathematical Association of America meeting, Barnes met with senior book acquisitions editor Stephen Kennedy about publishing a book on hands-on teaching ideas. She also mentioned the coloring book.

Kennedy was intrigued with the coloring book, but suggested coming up with more interesting images, and describing the math that produced the image. That required the use of Julia sets, which are sets of complex numbers that are visualized by plotting in the complex plane.

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Originally published November 15, 2017.

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