Creativity and mathematics are words which I did not associate with one another until recently. I believed that there was no room for creativity in mathematics as, after all, how can it be creative when it involves answering questions and problems which all have a ‘right’ answer? Oh how wrong I was.
Maths is all around us, from the parallel lines running through your carpet, to the tessellating tiles on your kitchen floor. It is not all about numbers, equations and ‘right’ answers, as shape, symmetry and proportion all come under the broad heading of mathematics. It is these areas which artists have been using for thousands of years to create beautiful patterns and images which form the basis of some of their artwork.
Islamic art in particular showcases how imaginative and creative maths can really be. Tessellation forms the basis of this type of artwork, allowing artists to create extraordinary repeat patterns from one simple shape.
One thing I find particularly interesting about tessellation is the ability to begin with one simple shape and transform it into another completely different one. Escher demonstrates this ability within his own work as a renowned graphic artist (see video of how he forms the basic unit of his patterns).
The video shows how something as simple as a hexagon can be transformed into a completely different shape altogether, just by chopping and changing parts of the shape (being a little creative with it!). The fact that this shape still tessellates even after being modified suggests the power of mathematics. Isn’t it amazing what we can achieve by experimenting and playing around with maths as we know it?
Price (2006) suggests that when we think of creativity, the expressive arts comes to mind due to our current curriculum restricting and confining what and how maths is taught within our schools. Should we, as teachers, be encouraging our students to experiment and take more risks within their maths – like Escher did – rather than teaching towards an objective? I believe that this would allow our children to see a different side to maths – like I have – rather than just the numbers, equations and ‘right’ answers that we (including myself) commonly think of when we hear the word maths.
As a student teacher now equipped with the knowledge of how important developing creativity within maths is for young children to be able to understand its purpose in society, I hope to provide my pupils with a range of opportunities within mathematics which will aid them in also recognising this. I aim to carry out professional reading about the teaching of maths in the primary school so that I can then demonstrate my own flexible understanding of maths with them, and thus become more confident in my own ability.
As, after all, why can’t maths be beautiful, creative and imaginative just like the expressive arts?
Giganti, P (2010) Anatomy of an Escher Lizard. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6L6bE_bTMo&feature=youtu.be (Accessed: 26 September 2018).
Price, A. (2006) Creative Maths Activities for Able Students : Ideas for Working with Children Aged 11 to 14. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.