Monday, June 27, 2016

Math at the Art Museum

I saw a listing for Math at the Art Museum and wanted to read it because I've always been interested in how art, music, and gym can help students who love those subjects, but are weak in others build skills in new ways.

This book begins that premise and actually would make for an interesting discussion about how more subject areas could work together with shared vocabulary, activities, and curriculum planning to help students recognize that math and science are accessible in areas they often never consider.

In this book two children are headed off with their parents to the Art Museum to visit a special exhibition titled, "Discover Math in Art." The family passes through the exhibits and the mathematical vocabulary is highlighted. The paintings through out the book are identified and the painter credited.

One of my favorites was Praying Mother and Son Rock Formation by Kim Jae-hong used to demonstrate symmetry, because this reminded me of my trip to see the art teacher when I needed help with this lesson plan. While the emphasis on symmetry was significant in the curriculum, the materials I had available to me, were rather limited for the age group I was teaching. It seemed this would be a logical choice for demonstrating a math concept in art class so we discussed my curriculum goals and the types of projects she would consider doing with the kids to meet those goals. As an artist, her appreciation for symmetry was far deeper than mine and she was able to find ways to explore it that I never would have considered. I can only say my students were blessed to have her additional instruction on the topic.

This book is very introductory, but it is an important one that I hope arrives at a few faculty meetings along with being used by parents and children to explore math and art. I do believe students do better when we help them build from strengths. For kids who love art, music, and gym being able to see math and science in those subjects makes science and math less intimidating. It doesn't mean we turn every lesson into a math lesson, but there are plenty of ways to embed vocabulary and concepts into a lesson without it losing it's original purpose.

It does require training and planning. Technical high schools in this area have already begun this transformation of working to embed more traditional learning curriculum into the student's shop periods. It takes training, but it is reflected in the students going from failing standardized tests to sometimes beating their classmates in traditional classrooms who spend more time focused solely on curriculum. Students are learning curriculum through trades and technical skills that interest them. In the same way students can and should learn skills they need in art, music, and gym. It doesn't take away from the time they spend in those classrooms, it just deepens the learning experience. Having teachers use math vocabulary when discussing art, music, and gym topics requires training, but it can lessen anxiety in kids who normally fear a math problem, but excel at figuring out the geometry required in a football play.

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