I wonder, I notice | Math as Art
My friend over at Living with Kids Rocks shared this great essay to point out that math is very much a form of artistic expression just as music, drawing, painting and theater. Instantly I thought, “Ah, this is the heart I want to give to my children when it comes to math.” I want to show them that numbers are like paint that can convey beautiful ideas or musical notes that cultivate emotion in one’s heart.
So this week, we broke from our study of numbers, and we have been creating art with Cuisenaire rods. My oldest son made the most interesting piece and he made some interesting observations.
It had me wondering, “How do I help my child see the math in their artwork?” I presented my curiosity at Arithmophobia No More’s Facebook group where Denise Gaskin from Let’s Play Math shared a great short video by Annie Fetter.
This video resonated with me and felt quite familiar to the ideas within Gattegno. I had discussed cultivating mathematical awareness as presented by Dave Hewitt, and one important idea he conveys is that all children are mathematically aware. Knowing this is important because it changes our focus from instilling (forcing) mathematical knowledge into a child to instead drawing out the mathematical awareness that already exists within a child.
Annie Fetter is doing this very thing in the exercises she demonstrates in the video. She is tapping into this awareness that already exists within the students in the classroom, and cultivating the students’ need to discover problems for themselves through presentations of stories and pictures that don’t necessarily have an obvious problem to solve like my son’s artwork.
There isn’t really a problem to solve, but if the student wanted to understand their art better, there is certainly a lot there to be discovered. There is the curves, the patterns, the symmetry, and I imagine there is more there than I am mathematically aware enough to see. I feel adequate to wonder with my children, but I will say that I do feel I am lacking to give them the answers. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Sonya from Arithmophobia No More encouraged me to go on the journey with my kids. My natural inclination is to google to find the answer which is the typical way to go about things today. It requires no effort and most importantly no failure on my part. These inclinations are a manifestation of the years of “education” I have received. Give me a formula, give me the answers, but most importantly don’t encourage me to think.
We have decide to blow up this picture and post it up for a closer examination for the rest of the week. I can imagine there will be lots more questions and observations that will take us any number of places.
This is how though I imagine math class should be at its finest. Putting children in control of their own math journey certainly cultivates a positive relationship with math. Imagine an art class without freedom of expression where all you did was trace outlines all day. No wonder kids hate math. Blah!
Well, I guess I will go now and do some wondering and discovering because I really want to understand the curves in this picture but I am not exactly sure what it is I want to understand.
I will post later how the “I notice, I wonder” activity went but if you want a sneak peak just follow me on twitter or Instagram, and of course, you can find me in the Facebook group too.
Here are more resources on “I notice, I wonder” exercises: