Monday, November 30, 2015

That Beautiful Intersection of Math and Art (Beyond the Classroom)

I know that I am very fortunate to work in a highly collaborative environment, and I know it helps to make me a better teacher.  This year when my colleague came to me with the idea that we should incorporate some art into math class, I was a bit skeptical.  I am so thankful for the nudge she gave me that helped us to create one of my favorite math units of all time.

We began the unit by introducing the idea of fractals in both the natural world and in design.  Students were fascinated by the concept, and I began to hear conversations outside of the classroom about fractals and patterns in nature.  Surprisingly students took their ideas well beyond the classroom, which was a pleasant side effect and demonstrated their enthusiasm for the topic.  Suddenly, students who usually trudged their way through math class were excited to discover more and to create their own fractal artwork.  (See examples below of students' work).  I was stunned to see how clearly they were able to demonstrate their understanding.


We followed our fractal unit with an activity in which students discovered the Fibonacci sequence.  I was also shocked to see how determined my students were to discover the pattern and how often it was worked out by students who by traditional standards weren't my strongest students.  Clearly we had touched on something that engaged all students in a way I had not seen before in my class.  Students were then tasked with creating a piece of art that was inspired by the Fibonacci sequence, and again they did not disappoint me.  (See the examples below).

The capstone of our unit was when we invited a successful local artist, who uses a lot of fractals and draws inspiration from the Fibonacci series, and he shared with us his process and the beauty of pattern and repetition.  It was magical to watch our students be inspired by math!