The Math Gates: Team teaching art and math

Art teacher Dona Seegers and RSU 38 math coach have collaborated in teaching art and math this school year at Mount Vernon Elementary School. They wrote this essay about their experience.

Team teaching art and math works!

We are motivated by the excitement of new ideas for presenting our subjects to the students, are eager to experiment and have infectious enthusiasm.

We are interested in having the students discover how integral math is for an artist and how a mathematician benefits from creative thinking abilities with 2D and 3D design vocabulary and concepts.

Math and art share many core features focused on thinking and problem-solving. Students become better at math through visual investigations.

Students and teachers alike benefit with two instructors in the room. We (Dona and Sarah) are better able to address the needs of students at all levels and increase their participation. It personalizes the learning experience and students witness us learning from each other.

Students experience the myriad of connections between the art and math disciplines while doing creative movement, making Venn Diagrams, using math manipulatives and participating in art projects.

Mount Vernon Elementary School students in the school hallway, where they put in an algebra-related art installation.
The Math Gates installation at Mount Vernon Elementary School.

Algebra and Art were the focus for our three-week interactive hallway installation, called The Math Gates.

Sarah had been reading about the importance of introducing algebraic thinking in the early grades, inspired by Robert Moses, who started The Algebra Project. Dona was inspired by Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 2005 art installation of The Gates in New York City’s Central Park.

When we combined our ideas, students learned to temporarily transform an environment through art installation.

With the help of the janitor, Craig Dunn, and the district volunteer coordinator, Nancy Mormon, the front hall became a learning lab for algebraic equations K-5. Cloth flags with dots (K), whole numbers (1-4) and fractions (5) were hung four across to demonstrate a variety of equations of increasing difficulty.

The book “Object Lessons: Teaching Math Through the Visual Arts K-5” by math educator Caren Holtzman and art teacher Lynn Susholtz has been a fantastic resource this year and the source for all of our collaborations.

Next year, we plan to do a project based on the Fibonacci sequence, which will include a field trip to an art show on this theme at The Emery Community Arts Center in Farmington.

A sampling of student comments about The Math Gates:

  • “You are able to do both tasks at the same time. Math and Art are my favorite subjects, so it is double the fun.”
  • “ Sometimes you do art and sometimes you do math, so it evens out in the end.”
  • “Installation is a lot different because you have never heard of it; you need to know both subjects because they come in useful.”
  • “We don’t have other subjects combined.”

Resources and more information

Leave a Reply