The Creative Side of Maths

Through various inputs we have explored how mathematics can have an effect on creativity. Without the Discovering Maths module, I would never have come to these conclusions myself. However, throughout history, fundamental mathematics such as shape and symmetry have been used to create artistic masterpieces. According to Barrow (2014), mathematics and art have a distinct link. This can be shown in various ways.


One way in which fundamental mathematics can be used in a creative way is through the use of tessellation. Tessellation can be described as the arrangement of identical shapes that cover a surface with no breaks or overlaps. Tessellation can be seen all around us from the tiles on the floor to the food we eat (mathsisfun, 2018). Tessellation is also apparent throughout the work of many artists. The work of M.C. Escher places huge emphasis on tessellation. He focused on this idea that you could fill a surface with pictures that did not overlap. He developed the complexity of his work by moving away from regular tessellation which involve one regular shape to using various pictures and making them tessellate (, undated).

The first picture below helps us to see regular tessellation.

This picture allows us to look at the complex work of M.C. Escher.

 The Golden Ratio

During a recent input, we focused on how symmetry and the use of mathematics can help us to create portraits. At first, we were asked to draw a portrait freehand. I found this extremely difficult as I have always struggled with art. My first drawing included a huge head, two misshapen eyes that were too close together and a forehead that was completely out of proportion. We were then asked to look around the room at these portraits and our own faces to find some common measurements and proportions. My high school knowledge of art, reminded me that our eyes are half way down our head. Adapting on these thoughts, we were able to redo our portraits using eight steps. These steps consisted of simple measurements, for example, the width of our face is around five eyes width. It is stated by Meisner (2012) that a ‘perfect’ face is based upon the ‘golden ratio’. Therefore, this suggests that beauty can be created and based on a mathematical scale.

Through the use of symmetry and scale, I was able to create a much more realistic portrait. This input was greatly important to my development, as it allowed me to not only lose my anxieties around math but also art.

 The Rule of the Thirds

Another way in which mathematics can be used to enhance art is through the use of the rule of the thirds. This will enhance photography, as it allows the photographer to positon the main subject in the best possible way. To follow the rule, you must split a photograph into nine equal parts with two vertical and two horizontal lines. By placing the focus of the photo in a third section, it provides space around the focus. This means that when looking at the photo it is more attractive.

 In conclusion, these inputs have allowed me to explore fundamental mathematics in a different way. I have come to realise that there is much more to maths than equations in a textbook. I feel this has also developed the way I think as a teacher as now, in the classroom, I see how we can elaborate on these fundamentals to create fun and exciting mathematics for the children to experience and enjoy.



Barrow, J.D. (2014). 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Maths and the Arts. London: The Bodley Head.

Meisner, G. (2012) The Human Face and the Golden Ratio. Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2018).

Maths is Fun (2018) Tessellation.  Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2018).

Tessellation. Org (undated) Tesselations – M.C. Escher 1. Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2018).



Base 10? The Best?

We use our base ten number system every day without thinking. But why? Is this the most efficient way of counting?

Let’s think back to where our number system came from.

Egyptian hieroglyphics can be seen as one of the first examples of a number system which pre-date roman numerals. Similarly, the Egyptians used a base ten system of hieroglyphics for numerals. A numeral is the symbol that represents the number. In the system, they have separate symbols for ‘one unit, one ten, one hundred, one thousand, one ten thousand, one hundred thousand and one million’ explain O’Connor and Robertson (2000).

As detailed by Scottsdale (2017) there are several drawbacks to the Egyptian’s number system. As she explains there are some numbers which are very long to write. For example, for the number 258, you will need to write 15 symbols. This means that the process becomes time consuming and as the number increases, it gets more difficult.

Next came the Roman numerals.

Roman numbers are created by merging symbols and adding their value. Likewise, when counting in Roman numerals you have to be able to decode in order to read a number. This can become impractical and again very time consuming. (The Hindu-Arabic Number System and Roman Numerals, no date).

Similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Roman numerals, just because they are what we are used to and use in our everyday lives, it does not mean it is necessarily the most efficient. The video discusses how for example, a base twelve system would make our counting easier.

In this system, our numbers would consist of; 1 to 9, two new symbols for ten and eleven which are given the new names of dek and el and to avoid confusion ten has a new name of do. A number square would look something like this;

Trying it ourselves in the lecture, my mind was blown. I thought there was no way I could ever understand this and how it would ever work more efficiently. This is purely because our current base 10 system is so ingrained into our everyday lives. It is often said that the human body is accustomed to using a base ten system to count as we have ten fingers.

What would this mean for us as teachers?

As I have observed from experience in the classroom, for the kids, learning their times table can be a difficult and tedious process.

According to Wilkins (2018), a child’s times table forms the basis in their growth in mathematics and the mathematics we use in everyday life. With this being such an important concept in a child’s development of mathematics, would a base twelve system be more effective?

In base twelve, because twelve can be divided by 2,3,4 and 6. There are patterns in all of these times tables making it much easier for children to learn.

However, as a child you will often turn to your fingers to help you count and with the base twelve system this cannot be done as easily. If only we had twelve fingers….

Despite there being clear benefits to this new number system, the change for our world would be too confusing to implement.


O’Connor, J.J. and Robertson, E.F. (2000) Egyptian Numerals. Available at: (Accessed: 31 October 2018).

The Hindu—Arabic Number System and Roman Numerals (undated) Available at: (Accessed: 6 November 2018).

Scottsdale, B. (2017) The Disadvantages of the Egyptian Numeral System. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2018).

Wilkins, C. (2018) ‘The fact is, learning times tables does pupils a world of good’. Available at: (Accessed: 2 November 2018).

A Changing Attitude to Mathematics.

Maths anxiety can be defined as the feeling of fear we experience that stops us from reaching our full potential in the subject. Haylock and Thangata (2007)

This is something I can say I have experienced myself. In high school, for me, the thought of a maths class would mean doing the same equations out of a textbook without any understanding of what or why I was doing it. I became used to the idea of essentially getting on with what I was told to do – no questions asked.

After failing my National 5 exam in 2015, the maths anxiety kicked in.

Haylock and Thangata (2007) detail that this effects someone in two ways. You first stay away from mathematics problems. Secondly, your ability to recall information you already know becomes weakened. Any motivation I already had was gone. Whatever problem I was faced with, I applied a cannot do attitude. I had the constant fear of failing or constantly thinking i was doing the wrong thing.

Time came to resit the exam in 2016, by this point in the year all I knew was a series of equations with little knowledge of how to apply these to different situations. Basically the how not the why. Maths was the only subject in school I struggled through and didn’t actually enjoy.

So what? This leads us to now. Second year at university with still no idea what a right angle actually is – I know now, I learned last week.

I have chosen to take the discovering mathematics module, as I hope to use it to help to change my embedded thoughts of maths and the classes that I am used to.

Through further reading, I have learned that as maths anxiety is still a form of anxiety, it cannot be cured only managed.  I know it is my responsibility as a developing teacher to help change the views of the children In my class and teach them what I would have I wanted to be taught and told when I was struggling in class. 

Already, I have seen a huge change in myself and the way I see mathematics. When Johnathon first used the term ‘a profound understanding of mathematics’ I nearly fell off my seat. Now I am coming to terms with what this actually means. I can see that maths is all around us. We use maths everyday and have no idea that we even are. I feel that these inputs can only improve my teaching skills. Maths is something we should be excited to learn and use, and this needs to be passed on to children today. 


Haylock, D. and Thangata, F. (2007) Key Concepts in Teaching Mathematics. London: SAGE.

RME – It’s not just about the stories.


When reflecting on my own experience of RME in the primary classroom, the extent of my learning was hearing the teacher read stories from the bible or having various lessons on festivals such as easter or Christmas.

However, after attending a number of RME workshops my understanding of the subject and how I would go about teaching it has changed drastically. I realise that it is important for a child to experience different religions, and not only by telling them the stereotypical traditions, but by allow children to see and touch objects of religion. The use of artefacts can help to give children a hands on experience. It can encourage questions and rich discussion.

This discussion can include things like; Where does it come from? How is it used? and Why is it used? This can lead children into deeper thought about religion. This makes the lesson much more engaging and can excite the learning. Throughout the most recent workshop, I even learned how to dress a sari. 

Yet, it is also important when using artefacts to remember that not all children will want to participate and may feel comfortable doing so.

I now have a deeper understanding of how I plan to teach RME and I am now inspired to even try and have a go on my upcoming placement.

A Lesson of Equality

Throughout Tuesday’s resource workshop, we were put into five groups. Each group was given a brown envelope, which were allocated to groups one, two, three, four and five. We were asked to develop a helpful tool for a student starting out at university, however, we could only use the provisions that we were provided with.  Each envelope contained various utensils such as pens, paper and post-it notes.

We were then asked to brainstorm and present our ideas to the rest of the group and afterwards, were given a short amount of time to develop these. All five groups drafted interesting tools. However, it was easy to notice that Brenda, the convenor of the workshop, was acting differently towards groups three, four and five. Not as much praise, attention and care was given to these groups. Brenda scored our tools, starting group one off with the highest and lastly group five with the lowest. Some groups were unsatisfied with the outcome and felt the task was unfair. This was due to an unequal amount of resources, time and effort placed into these groups, from Brenda.

At the end of task, Brenda asked groups one and two whether they noticed they were given much more provisions in their envelope than all the others. Unsurprisingly, we did not. This placed an uncomfortable atmosphere throughout the room. Everyone in groups one and two felt regretful that they did not notice or even ask the other groups if they needed anything. This conveys deeper ideas which are presented in the wider world, that when you have much more than everyone else, you tend to become oblivious and forget that some do not have what you do. These are thoughts which us, inspiring primary teachers, social workers and CLD practitioners must use throughout our career.

The workshop also provoked thought of equality, because groups three, four and five were given less, they were all scored less. This presents the idea that as we are in a profession where not everyone we encounter will be as advantaged as each other, we cannot treat them any differently or any less than any one else. If anything, these children cannot be forgotten about and may need more guidance to follow them through their school career.

All of us at one point in our career will face these challenges.

The workshop left us all with lessons and thoughts which will stay with us forever. I know the session for me was extremely thought-provoking and will in future help to brand how I treat others and how I will act towards the children in my classroom. Everyone we teach should be treated with the same fairness and equality.


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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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