Teaching Mathematics Through Art
Term: 2 Year: 2011
The link between mathematics and art is a natural union because of the shared language and techniques that cross
over the two subjects.
Mathematics and art have a long historical relationship stretching back to the ancient Greeks, Romans and
Egyptians. Simple arrangements of geometric figures such as circles and triangles have been utilized by various
civilizations throughout history. An example of this is the ‘Flower of Life` on the Temple of Osiris in Obydos
in Egypt that is around 5000 years old. Mosques throughout the world and through the centuries have been decorated
with complex geometrical patterns created with simple shapes.
Mathematics is all about patterns and rhythms, so it is obvious that we find many mathematical concepts in art.
Mathematic skills can be a tool, an inspiration or part of the structure or design of an art piece. Developing an
understanding of symmetry, proportion, scale and measurement, properties of 2D and 3D shapes and perspective, provide
skills that can be explored and applied creatively during art lessons.
Three units of work were designed using a heuristic approach for students to explore the links between these two
disciplines. The aim was to give students an understanding of line and
– to build up a mathematical
-to construct and identify different angles and lines
-to discover that straight lines connected
on the two axes create a curve
-to cut accurate squares and rectangles for a patchwork cushion
the sewing machine independently and safely in the construction of a patchwork cushion
This session explored line and the language associated with it. Vertical, horizontal, parallel, diagonal,
perpendicular, straight and curved lines were identified and included in their design and complemented with primary
This session explored angles – right, obtuse, acute, straight and reflex were defined and drawn. Each axis
must be the same length. Students were instructed to mark off equal distances along each line and to connect
the top point on the Y axis to the first point on the X axis and so on. They made a number of discoveries, the most
important were that straight lines drawn in this way give the illusion of a curved line and the type of curve is
determined by the angle that has been drawn. They also found that accuracy is essential, an invaluable lesson
leading into patchwork cushions. This unit was completed with students collaging their angles into a visual image.
The first task was to screen print their central design onto a 12cm calico square. They then constructed two
rectangular templates – 12 by 18cm and 18 by 10cm. They cut four fabric rectangles from each of these
templates. The design was drawn onto Vilene and it is from this that the cushion was sewn. The central square was
pinned onto the right side and sewn from the back. The two smaller rectangles were pinned on opposite sides of the
square, sewn then really well pressed. The next two rectangles were sewn and pressed.
Students gained a complex mathematical language related to line and angles. They became confident and competent in
the use of sewing machines. Their interest in geometrical patterns has been stimulated and they have knowledge which
assists them in breaking down techniques used in their construction. When shown the ‘Flower of Life’ they
were able to work out how the design was drawn, create new designs and observe the affect that colour has on their
image. In general, their experiences broadened their understanding and appreciation of geometric design.
Visual Art Teacher
Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School
Suitable for Level