kitchen table math, the sequel: Artsy math; what about mathy art?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Artsy math; what about mathy art?

Yet another breathless newspaper report of a hands-on, student-centered math class, this one out of North Penn, Pennsylvania. It begins with a typical math diss:
If you think geometry is a bit boring, well, you may be right.
Geometry was one of my favorite math classes--and my favorite class at the time. I especially loved the abstract proofs, and the elegant, infinite world you could construct out of a handful of axioms. This class took me places I'd never been before, and, I think, took my thinking to a whole new level. Writing about it makes me smile.

The article continues:
But for one Pennridge 10th-grade geometry class, a hands-on architecture project has made geometry exciting.

Geometry teacher JoAnn Rubin uses a creative architecture project that teaches her students to use the precision of geometry and architecture as well as the freedom of artistic expression to help all types of students succeed in her math course.

"Not everyone is good at math," Rubin said about the project. "Some kids are really artistic."

The project asks students to create a representation of a building that they think is interesting or original.

They can make a model or a poster or any kind of representation of the building using their geometry skills. There is really only one thing curtailing the student's creativity on the project.

"The only restriction was that the buildings couldn't be rectangular," Rubin said with a smile.
This one restriction led students in many different directions and had them recreating all different kinds of buildings, from architectural classics to the downright bizarre.
Rubin's assignment appears to have fulfilled her goals--with flying colors:
Although the project results were all over the spectrum, students of all mathematical abilities consistently succeeded.

"It's about recognizing that we all have our talents and interests," Rubin said about the project that allowed every student to explore their abilities beyond the chalkboard. "I wanted them to look at the geometry of the actual buildings."
Equality of outcome; celebration of multiple intelligences; real-life examples; it's all there.

But I can't help feeling concerned for one of Rubin's thriving students:
One of the more creative projects was built by Brett Saddington, who turned the parameters for the project completely upside-down.

"I just looked up the world's strangest buildings," Saddington said about the Google search that led him to an upside-down house built in Szymbark, Poland.

He said that he one day hopes to be an architect or an engineer, and he showed off his talent with his topsy-turvy creation.
His teacher is hopeful, too:
Most of Rubin's students will not become architects or engineers, but by giving her students a look at the practical and creative side of geometry, she has given them an appreciation that could take them anywhere.

"They really don't know what direction they may be heading," Rubin said. "But who knows? They may become architects or engineers."
But I'm worried that, in this topsy turvy world of math education, where art is math and appreciation is learning, Brett's high school teachers may never teach him the math he needs to pursue an architecture or engineering degree in college and beyond.

Unless, of course, the art teacher is having Brett and his classmates spend the same amount of time doing math problems about the geometry of perspective drawing and optical wave forms.


Independent George said...

According to the engineers, the ability to do basic math disqualifies you from being an Architect...

SteveH said...

"Although the project results were all over the spectrum, students of all mathematical abilities consistently succeeded."

Succeeded in what? Surely not math. That's why architects hire engineers.

"But who knows? They may become architects or engineers."

Or not. She doesn't know because she hasn't a clue about the needs for each career. "You could be a winner."

Anonymous said...

Dumbest project I ever had: Make a math Christmas ornament. (This was in pre-Alg.) I cross-stitched Pascal's triangle in the shape of a Christmas tree....