Exploring the Connection Between Math and Art

ALI Staff | Published  March 23, 2023 | Updated July 02, 2024

Combining art with traditional STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) creates STEAM education, which boosts creativity and engages all kinds of learners. Mixing math and art helps students understand both subjects better and can reach those who struggle with regular academic methods.

By exploring how math and art connect, teachers can create exciting and inclusive lessons that resonate with more students.

From ancient symbols to modern masterpieces, the link between math and art has shaped cultures and continues to inspire new ideas.


A chalkboard with a brain image at the center. The left side shows math-related imagery and the right side art art-related imagery.


Why Encourage Growth in Both Math and Art?

Encouraging students to grow in both math and art is important because it makes their education more well-rounded. Mixing art with math helps them think creatively, solve problems, and express themselves better.

Art, literature, and music are often sidelined in favor of more traditionally academic subjects, but they play a significant role in strengthening mathematical understanding.

When students see how these subjects connect, especially those who struggle with pure academics, they find new ways to get interested in learning. Encouraging them to explore both math and art helps them see the world in a more connected way, boosting their appreciation and motivation to learn.


What is the Connection Between Math and Art?

Throughout history, the connection between math and art has been evident in various forms.

Ancient civilizations used mathematical concepts in their art, such as the use of hieroglyphs and symbols to represent numbers and calculations.

Artists like Leonardo da Vinci employed geometry and proportion in their masterpieces, showcasing the intrinsic link between these disciplines. Math and art intersect through concepts, tools, and critical thinking, enriching both fields.

Concepts: Artists frequently use mathematical concepts such as angle, proportion, perspective, balance, grids, and symmetry in their work. These principles help create visually appealing and structurally sound artwork.

Tools: Many tools used by mathematicians overlap with those used by artists, such as rulers, protractors, and angle finders. These tools aid in precision and accuracy, essential in both creating art and solving mathematical problems.

Critical Thinking: Both math and art develop critical and creative thinking skills. Students learn to reason, analyze, evaluate, and make decisions, which are valuable skills in any field they choose to pursue.


Tips for Promoting Math and Art Development

Strategies to promote development in math and art share many similarities. Both subjects benefit from approaches that encourage creativity, resilience, and critical thinking.

Here are some practical tips to help promote the development of both math and art skills in students:

Productive Struggle: Encourage students to view mistakes as a valuable part of the learning process. In both math and art, making mistakes helps students learn and grow. In art, students can start with light sketches, adjusting as they go. Similarly, in math, students can work through problems step-by-step, learning from errors and refining their approach.

Thinking Outside the Box: Foster creativity by challenging students to think beyond conventional methods. In math, ask them to solve problems in multiple ways or create their own word problems. In art, encourage experimentation with different materials and techniques. This helps students develop flexible thinking skills that are valuable in both disciplines.

Embracing Perspective: Teach students to appreciate different perspectives. In art, this could involve studying how other artists approach the same subject. In math, it might mean exploring various methods to solve a problem. Understanding different viewpoints enhances critical thinking and broadens students' analytical skills. This practice also supports social-emotional learning (SEL) by fostering empathy and understanding as students learn to see things from others' perspectives.

Making Connections: Help students see the connections between math, art, and the world around them. In art, explore how historical artists used mathematical principles in their work. In math, discuss the history of numbers and how ancient civilizations developed mathematical systems. Show how these early innovations still influence our daily lives and modern technology. Making these connections to the real world can make learning both math and art more meaningful and relevant.

Communication and Discussion: Encourage students to talk about their work in both math and art. In art, discuss their creative processes, challenges, and discoveries. In math, have them explain their problem-solving steps and reasoning. This collaborative approach can lead to new insights and a greater appreciation for both subjects.


Examples of Math Art Projects

Bringing math and art together with hands-on projects lets students see how math works in real life while having fun with their creativity. Here are some examples of projects that mix both subjects, helping students enjoy and understand math through art.

Determine Ratios for Paint Mixing: When mixing and blending colors, teach students the ratios used in mixing, such as 2 parts blue + 1 part green and 4 parts white + 1 part gray. This activity helps students understand proportions and ratios while engaging in a creative process.

Investigate Famous Art Pieces: Analyze famous artworks through a mathematical lens. For instance, examine the geometric shapes and patterns in Kandinsky's paintings. Students can measure and compare the shapes used, draw conclusions about 2D figures, and create their own artwork inspired by these observations.

Drawing Mandalas with Symmetry: Teach students how to draw mandalas, emphasizing the use of symmetry and tools like protractors. This project not only enhances their understanding of symmetry but also allows them to create intricate and beautiful designs.

Paul Klee Inspired Fraction Art: Create a math art project inspired by Paul Klee's "Castle and Sun." Cut colorful construction paper into various shapes, such as squares and rectangles, and have students arrange them on a white base. They can learn about fractions by seeing how different shapes and areas interact. For example, a green square might represent 1/12th of the page, while a red rectangle could be 1/6th. This activity teaches geometry, fractions, and measurements through creative expression.

Tessellation Patterns: Introduce students to the concept of tessellations, where shapes fit together without gaps. They can create their own tessellation patterns using shapes like triangles, squares, and hexagons. This project helps students understand geometry and spatial reasoning.


Why is it Important to Teach Math Through Art?

Teaching math through art makes learning more fun and engaging. It combines creativity with problem-solving, helping students grasp complex concepts in an enjoyable way.

This method encourages students to think creatively, see things from different perspectives, and learn from their mistakes.

By connecting math and art, students develop critical thinking skills and a greater appreciation for both subjects.

This approach not only improves their academic skills but also shows them how these subjects apply to real life, making their education more meaningful and exciting.


Which STEM subjects are of interest to you?

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