# Maths in art? Art in maths?

Previously, I’ve heard people say, “I cannot do art” or “Art is something that I just wasn’t gifted in”. This is why one particular maths workshop came as surprise to me as it demonstrated that you can do art using maths.

In class we created tessellations. Little did I know that this type of art links to basic ideas and concepts in maths such as properties of 2D shapes, angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, symmetry, proportion. It also links to longitudinal coherence since we can use these basic concepts of maths and build upon them to teach area and transformation (Ma, 2010,p. 104).

To create our tessellation, we had to look at the size of the shapes, how the regular shapes of an equilateral triangle, squares and triangles could fit together and why they did. Throughout the workshop we used a whole range of mathematical languages such as edges, sides, angles, pattern and symmetry.

We looked at the tiles in front of us and thought of what pattern we wanted to create. Once we had chosen our pattern, we placed the tiles down on the paper to see if the 2D, regular shapes would fit together. We found that there were going to be gaps however, we solved this challenge as we found that if we rotated some of the triangles, they would fit, leaving no gaps. Once we completed our tessellation, we painted it, using colours to emphasise the pattern created.

This workshop was useful as in the future if there are some pupils who for example say, “I can’t do maths but they say they are good at art, I can show them how both connect to one another, making maths or alternatively art more interesting, fun, engaging and relevant to the pupils as art can be created using mathematical concepts.

In the future, this activity would useful for teaching maths and for developing pupils understanding of fundamental mathematics. To start out, pupils could look at shape, angles and explore how shapes fit together. Pupils could be challenged by looking at why these shapes fit together. Pupils could explore this by using a protractor to see how all the angles add up to 360 degrees where the angles meet. Children could be further challenged by making their own shapes. They then could measure the angles to discover how and why they fit together. Additionally, I would like to make shapes relevant to pupils by showing them shapes in real life contexts because pupils might not think of shapes when looking at buildings for example, they could look at photos of the Pantheon in Rome, as the front of it is the shape of a pentagon.

References:

• Ma, L., (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics (Anniversary Ed.)New York: Routledge.
• Valentine, E (2017) Maths, creative? – No way! [PowerPoint Presentation], ED21006: Discovering Mathematics (year 2) (17/18). University of Dundee. 26 September.

# Teaching mathematics progressively!

In the “School maths or intriguing maths?” workshop, I experienced mathematics being taught in an maths in an intriguing, creative and progressive way. I saw how teaching maths in a progressive way gives more depth to children’s learning which is one of the principles in Curriculum for Excellence (The Scottish Government, 2008, p.30) which furthermore, suggests using acting learning to do so in order to deepen understanding.

In the workshop we were learning how to teach the fundamental basics or principles of volume and capacity using active learning. To do so, we made a cube using squared paper. Once we drew out out cube, (which we choose to be 3 x 3 x 3)  then folded the cube up, sellotaping the sides together. In order to find out the volume of this cube, we filled our cube with 1cm^3 cubes. This was a much more creative way of learning about volume than rote learning a formula by a procedure. By doing this experiment, we were surrounded in mathematical language and had more questions whilst exploring volume.

I found that learning through experience is much more beneficial than just sitting in class writing on paper. It is much more memorable and exciting! An idea that I hope to take forward in teaching! For example, in class an idea was given that if there is a question about money for example, use real money. If it’s about buying and selling, I could get the pupils to set up a pretend shop or they could go to the secretary office for an exchange of money and before the practical, pupils could make a hypothesis, then observe what happened and can reflect on their learning.

There are various ways or perspectives from which maths can be taught, linking to advice given by Ma (2010, p. 104) which is to solve a problems by looking at things from multiple perspectives. However, Eastaway (2010, p. 33) states that even though using for example, the fun finger method for multiplying which is learning multiplications using a different way, it still might be better to memorise the times tables and he claims that memorising them may be the “…best method” for some. So, from this I am aware that even though there may be more fun ways to learn maths and they are fantastic, for some people, learning maths by just using paper may be the best way for them.

Alternatively, Mason, J. Burton,L. and Stacey, K (2010, p. 134) suggest making maths more creative and relevant which it was through making the cube and by finding the volume of the elephants. This was as Ma (2010, p. 104) states, building upon basic ideas and foundations which creates questions and developes understanding  throughout the experiences since we had to think of how to find the volume of the elephants which were not square. This also demonstrates how to view the problem from another perspective to aid understanding (Ma, 2010, p. 104). I never would have thought of teaching how to find the volume of an elephant in such a creative and interesting way which encourages a pupil to think (Mason, Burton and Stacey (2010, p.138). Maths can be fun when you use creative, active learning to teach it.

In addition to the workshop, I read how to teach children to think mathematically and to approach a maths question or problem without panicking about it. Mason, Burton and Stacey (2010, p.135) suggests firstly looking at what they know, what they want to know and how they can check. This approach, increases pupil confidence, as they can check whether their answer is correct without having to ask the teacher as they can prove themselves that their answer is correct.

Pupils can develop a positive mindset when approaching a question and they can think of what they do know when looking at it instead of looking at what they don’t know. If stress or panic is the first result then that can block your thinking. (Mason, Burton and Stacey (2010, pp.135-136). This is advice for pupils that I would like to take forward when teaching children maths to help both them and myself develop a fundamental understanding of mathematics.

However, what I found interesting was that Mason, Burton and Stacey (2010, p.139) state that reflecting on successes increases confidence. Yes, I do believe it can but at the same time I think there can be a potential for future stress in order to keep up with previous success and self-confidence in the subject could decrease if the next time you are not successful. Therefore, as a teacher successes are to be celebrated but failures should be supported too and this is why having a positive mindset is important!

In conclusion, teaching maths can be fun! Pupils can learn maths with a positive mindset, through a progressive way, that is creative and interesting, that stirs up questions from children and deepens their understanding through active learning. Maths doesn’t have to be just on paper, it is all around us!

References:

• Eastaway, R. (2010) How many sock make a pair?. London: JR Books.
• Ma, L., (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics (Anniversary Ed.)New York: Routledge.
• Mason, J., Burton, L. and Stacey, K. (2010). Thinking Mathematically. 2nd edn. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.
• The Scottish Government (2008) curriculum for excellence building the curriculum 3. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/resource/doc/226155/0061245.pdf (Accessed: 25 September 2017).