The Math of Art/The Artistry of Math

March 11, 2022

When John Wilson introduces a new math unit to his upper school students, he likes to begin with an open-ended question. For example: What does a circle mean to you?

“I always try to make the concepts relatable and practical,” explains John. “We incorporate real-life scenarios to the skills they are building.” Earlier in the year, during a unit on ratios and proportions, he asked the students to design a fashion doll using their own physical measurements. And during a study on similarity, they looked at fluctuating currency exchange rates.

The students in John’s geometry classes are currently working through a unit on circles. They have learned how to create the equation of a circle, find the center, measure the radii, and draw a circle using a compass. As a final project, John asked his students to create a work of art using four circles of varying sizes.

“I noticed that most of the students in this particular class took visual arts electives,” explains John. “And I thought it would be beneficial to their learning to tap into that creativity. It’s been great seeing them apply artistry to a math assignment.”

Students took advantage of this assignment to express their personal interests alongside their creative talents, with works featuring iconic imagery such as Star Wars characters and a scene inspired by van Gogh’s The Starry Night. “I could tell they really enjoyed it,” says John.

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