30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 10 Parable of the Polygons

Day 10: Parable of the Polygons

Today’s tool is Parable of the Polygons, a playable blog post presented by the brilliant Vi Hart (one of my all-time favorite Math doodlers) and systems storyteller and interactive thing maker, Nicky Case. They have collaborated to create an adorable simulation with an important message about society and how our individual biases, and the choices we make based on those biases, shape the world around us. Even though the little triangles and squares are incredibly cute, the message they help to deliver is a powerful one.

“This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.”


Their story begins with an unhappy triangle who is slightly shapest and wants to be moved into a more diverse crowd. You, the reader, can drag the little guy around to make him happy. As the parable continues, you are faced with more complicated scenarios and interactive simulations that demonstrate the impact of individual biases on the segregation of this little polygon society. By changing the level of individual bias, you can see how quickly or slowly the segregation of their society shifts making those bias little guys happy, unhappy or just meh.


The simulations are simple but effective. I was shocked to see how quickly a society can change. You start to realize how individual biases lead to collective biases and those collective biases change the diversity of society.


Hart and Case do a wonderful job of mixing interactive simulations with informational text and explanations that are both easy to understand and entertaining. They have taken a heavy topic and presented it in a way that seems non-threatening and approachable. It gets you thinking about your own biases and how you, this little individual polygon, can impact the world around you. They leave you with the message that your demand for either more diversity or less can have a huge impact on your immediate neighborhood and the larger society.


Parable of the Polygons is a great way to introduce the idea diversity and bias into a classroom and start some amazing conversations. It could be a catalyst for a larger project-based learning activity on diversity in society or the tool a teacher uses to demonstrate an individual’s impact on society over time. At the end of the post, they share some fantastic resources, links to research, and other mathematical models used to describe institutionalized bias.  They have also included links to organizations that are working for diversity such as Black Girls who Code, Girls Who Code, and Code 2040.

What I love most is that Hart and Case shared their creation under a Creative Commons Open License. (In fact, I first stumbled upon their post while browsing the Creative Commons website.) They want you to share and use this powerful story. So, use it and share it.

If you love Parable of the Polygons as much as I do, be sure to check out Hart‘s videos  (I’ve shared a couple of my favorites below) and Case’s interactive things such as Explorable Explanations and Neurotic Neurons.

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Doodling in Math Class: Snakes + Graphs from Vi Hart on Vimeo.

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Doodling in Math Class: Dragon Dungeons from Vi Hart on Vimeo.


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