The following is a guest post written by April Millian, a high school mathematics teacher in collaboration with Lisette Morel, a high school art teacher. April and Lisette teach at New Milford High School in New Milford, New Jersey.
As a child I loved art class and excelled at mathematics, often creating artwork with a definite geometric flair. However, it wasn’t until college that I developed a real appreciation for the connections between these two subjects. I was fortunate to spend a January term (a three-week class) in Greece for a Classics course studying of Greek art and architecture. Along with our two Classics professors, a math professor joined us. My initial thought was that it’s crazy to have a math professor on this trip. I mean, what was he going to teach us in Greece? I was standing in front of the Parthenon listening to my professor discuss the Golden Ratio and how it applied, not only to the ancient structure in front of us, but to countless other works of art. That is how my love of mathematics and its significance in art was born.
Fast-forward 13 years I, Miss Millian, am now fortunate to be teaching in a school that is technology-oriented with a fantastic art teacher, Ms. Morel, who shares my interest in relating our two subjects. I was teaching linear perspective to my geometry students when I realized what a great topic it would make for a cross-curricular activity. Ms. Morel and I began to develop an idea for a video scavenger hunt at The Metropolitan Museum of Art that would combine the art with the mathematics behind it.
Teacher and Student Preparation:
Our objective for this interdisciplinary lesson was simply to introduce our students to and have them recognize and apply the relationship that art and math share. It is crucial to establish and maintain real-life connections in education. This connection brings relevance to the subject matter and to our students’ lives.
To prepare students for the interdisciplinary lesson plan I, Ms. Morel, introduced my drawing students and Miss Millian’s Geometry class to western and non-western viewpoints, such as Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Asian and their applications to visually documenting real life. Afterwards we discussed the Renaissance and linear perspective and how it was utilized by the architects and later by painters. For a real life experience I had our students step out into our hallways and view a one-point perspective. We also looked at photographs of homes and streets where students had to point out a one point, two point, high, low or normal vanishing points. While in Miss Millan’s Geometry class I used a document camera which I found to be extremely helpful in my demonstration and presentation to a large class. Our lesson culminated with a technology, art and math scavenger hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
To create this scavenger hunt, we started off by visiting the museum ourselves to get acquainted with the layout and decide which pieces would be included in our scavenger hunt. We also took pictures of each work of art. Then the real work began. We used iMovie to create a video that would take our students throughout history on a search for linear perspective (or sometimes the lack of it) in art. The students were armed with an iPod Nano for each group of two, and a question sheet that they needed to answer. The clues were recorded on the iPods by Ms. Morel and myself. They were also given visual clues, such as a cropped part of a painting, to help them find the correct work of art. To add a bit of challenge to the adventure, the first team to complete the scavenger hunt with the most correct answers received a prize of two prints we had purchased at the museum gift shop. Upon returning from our quest, the students created their own linear perspective drawings and completed an online survey.
It was so amazing to watch our students scamper through the museum, intent on finding these works of art. The students enjoyed the activity and found using the iPods more engaging than just reading off of a sheet of paper. What made this scavenger hunt so fascinating was that it brought to life a true connection between classroom learning and real life experience for our students.
Below you can view The Met Scavenger Hunt created by Miss Millian and Ms. Morel.
(Having trouble viewing this video. Try this link.)
Preview Scavenger Hunt Worksheet by clicking on the image below.
April Millian is a high school mathematics teacher in New Milford, New Jersey. She enjoys traveling and coaching the school’s Varsity Bowling team.
Lisette Morel is a teaching artist-mom, working with her students in a variety of art disciplines while maintaining an active art career.