Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Connecting Math and Art: Beyond Elementary Numeracy

All too often one of the first subjects students learn to dislike is math. That is because the focus of elementary math is numeracy and operations. It can get kind of dry. And for those students who have trouble with basic operations, math becomes a nemisis. But elementary students can and should be exposed to the larger world of math. One way I do this is our class economy, where the students have their own bank accounts using class money, and regularly deposit, withdraw, and balance their accounts.

Another way is using Vi Hart videos to connect math with art. I haven't met a student that isn't eager to create a Sierpinski's triangle or an Appolonian Gasket after viewing one of her videos and a short mini-lesson. The point is of course to show that math is beautiful and is more than basic operations, place value, and decimals.

Another way to expand children's idea of math is to use Scratch, a visual programming languague developed by MIT. I love using Scratch in the classroom because my students love using Scratch. It combines problem solving and computational thinking, and can be used to integrate just about any subject you can think of.

After my students are figure out how to use their knowledge of geometric properties to construct a square and other regular polygons, we look at how we can rotate shapes 360 degrees to make fast, symmetrical shape art:

But Scratch can also show how math can be used to create assymetrical paintings. By using random numbers and loops, painting can be created in the style of Jackson Pollock:

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