Math Arts with Kids

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Teaching problem solving skills is an interesting exercise and watching young people address the design problems I formulate for them is inspiring.

The last few weeks we have been doing math and art in the mobile program at FLY where I work.  At the different schools the artists in the class come up with different strategies to create images.  Some make a pattern.  Some look for shapes and anthropomorphic forms.  Others put shapes together or trace letters.  Still others choose to color the patterns in the coloring sheets we provide.

Then within those parameters, the children interact and learn from each other with self-narration.  One will say to herself that a french curve she traced looks like a horse, another will draw a horse on his paper.  One will make a saxophone and then the friend sitting next to her will make a saxophonist.

They will discover the shiny metal markers and explore the way lines from the markers leave a trace as they color.  The grain of the marker lines remains, even when the form is fully colored.  When they move it back and forth kids can see the refracted light.  They muse to one another about what they notice and advise each other how to color those lines more mindfully.

Our culmination was an origami project.  This was a little bit different for us, because our class structure is fluid.  Kids are allowed to work at their own pace most of the time rather than using a direct-teaching technique orientation.

To accommodate this work, I framed the project differently than I would if I were going to teach it in a school.  The students started by decorating a large sheet of paper using the geometric techniques we learned the week before.  Then we split the paper in to a square and quartered it as they decided they were done coloring.

Some were impatient to begin folding and rushed through the drawing stage, while others colored for most or all of the class.  This allowed me to help them in relatively small groups.  It was not quite enough time, but being able to work with individuals one on one while the class worked independently on a variety of stages.

The next day went a little more smoothly, because it was a group who knows the routine of our classroom better.  Some of them didn’t fold the origami, but most of them at least tried it.

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