The joys of Art…in Math?!

I have always believed that cross-curricular teaching is important in middle years; many subjects can link together such as  science and health, social studies and english, physical education and health, the list of combinations can go on continuously. However, I have never considered math and art to be linked, even the brain has them separated. Logical thinking is left sided and creativity is right sided; so without even realizing it I have always left the two subjects unconnected. That is until I decided to attend a guest instructor’s presentation about the connection of the two. Susan Gerofsky, who was visiting from the University of British Columbia specializes in the connection of art in mathematics.Two of the people that Susan focused on were George Hart and his daughter Vi Hart who both have a major focus on using art in mathematics.

The presentation was focused around learning how to create three-dimensional shapes using two-dimensional drawings. Susan started with referencing the learning we received in our youth regarding the creation of cubes. Even this sparked a discussion about the difference we received in learning how to make a cube and which way was correct or easier. The first way was to draw two different squares, with one being slightly behind the other, than you connect the squares with lines. The second creation is based on drawing one square, than using the corner of the square to draw a second square and connecting the two squares with lines. The outcome, regardless of which strategy is used, is a regular cube. The different perceptions of a cube can result in seeing something besides the cube. An example of this is if you look directly at the corner of a cube you will see a regular hexagon. Perception is a major theme in art, especially visual art; however it is rarely thought about in math, does the way you look at something make a difference in math, not usually but the way you look at something in art can change the entire image.

The next thing that we looked at was creating an icosahedron, which is a twenty-sided figure. The creation of this is based off of the pentagon. The first step is to draw a regular two-dimensional pentagon. In the center of the pentagon, draw a dot. Form a solid line from the center of each vertex (corner) on the pentagon to the dot in the center of the pentagon. The next step is the find the center of each edge of the pentagon, approximately a pinky width from the outer edge of the pentagon draw a dot at this point. Connect each vertex on the pentagon to the newly created dots. Connect two adjacent vertices on the new edges with a dotted line, along the inside of the pentagon. The new vertices also need to be connected to the center point with dotted lines. This is now a three dimensional icosahedron, drawn with  two-dimensional figures.

The activity listed above was created by George Hart, who has than taken this figure from an image drawn on a piece of paper and turned it into a physical three-dimensional sculpture. I did not have the pleasure of creating this sculpture because of other commitments, but the basics of the sculpture is that it is a icosahedron made out of CDs.

This activity made me what to know how else art can be incorporated in mathematics. Both George Hart, and Vi Hart use cooking to incorporate math, this can be especially helpful when the students ask the question “when am I ever going to use this?”. Every student will have to cook at some point, if they can see the connection between math and a life skill they may become more engaged and involved with their learning. George Hart has hundreds of activities that are based around using art and creativity in mathematics.Using math in art is a great way to bring those that are creative into an integrative method of applying math to applicable skills.



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