Elementary art educators looking to integrate the core subjects into their curriculum often gravitate toward subjects such as reading, language arts, and social studies into their lessons, thanks to the proliferation of children’s literature featuring artists, art movements, and the art of cultures around the world. When it comes to integrating subjects such as science and math, however, they sometimes find themselves in a bit of a bind. How does a subject such as the visual arts lend itself to teaching math?
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that it is quite easy to integrate the teaching of basic math concepts into art activities, and provides the reader with a number of examples. In fact, many elementary art educators are already integrating math into their curriculum – they simply don’t realize they are doing so!
One of the most straightforward ways to help young children learn to identify shapes is to have them point out different shapes in reproductions of works of art. Reproductions of paintings created by artists such as Picasso and Mondrian are especially good for activities of this sort.
Children in the lower elementary grades are often introduced to the concept of patterns in their regular classroom. Their understanding of patterns can be reinforced through the teaching of weaving, which utilizes an “over-under-over-under" pattern, not unlike the standard ABAB pattern. Young children can apply their knowledge by weaving a “mat" made of construction paper strips; older children can be taught to weave with a wide variety of materials.
Young children can be introduced to the concept of fractions by having them fold large pieces of drawing paper or construction paper into sections of equal size. The students can then unfold the paper and draw or paint a picture in each of the sections created by the creases.
Scales and Ratios
One of the things children most often overlook when drawing is scale, especially when they want to draw a large object, yet feel they have to include the entire object inside the borders of the paper. Once children reach third grade, they can be taught how to use measurement to draw objects to scale.
Measurement and Proportion
As children reach third or fourth grade, they become more concerned with their drawings looking “right.” This is a good time to teach them how to use measurement to create proper proportions. A good activity that lends itself well to this is learning to draw a self-portrait or a portrait of classmate. In this activity, the students can be required to use measurement for proper size, scale, and placement of facial features.