Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Benefits of Fine Art Integration into Mathematics in Primary School

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Benefits of Fine Art Integration into Mathematics in Primary School

Article excerpt


Giaquinto (2007, p. 1) states that the importance of the integration of visual content into learning mathematics is nothing new, while Gustlin (2012, p. 8) and Catterall (2002) indicate that this way of teaching is a developing field in contemporary education systems. Below we shall see that fine art and mathematics have been connected throughout human history, and that such a connection represents an important area in the development of education today.

Fine art and mathematics are intertwined and have complemented each other from the very beginning (Bahn, 1998, p. VII). The oldest finding is a 70,000-year-old stone from the Blombos cave in Africa, which is an example of abstract art, while at the same time also being a mathematical pattern. Since the beginning of antiquity, we have recorded cases of entertainment mathematics: examples that are only intended to amuse the reader and do not have mathematically useful aims (Berlinghoff & Gouvea, 2008). The belief that artistic expression contributes to the moral development of society first arises in the Romantic era (Efland, 1990). Both the Eastern and Western worlds connect and integrate the knowledge of artistic and mathematical areas, as is evident in patterned textiles that express traditions, ornaments for religious purposes, the decoration of walls, floors and furniture, etc. An extensive mathematical component can be found in all of these artistic creations, many of which are based on the symmetrical relationships of their patterns (Nasoulas, 2000, p. 364).

Mathematics has been used to create works of art - perspective (BarnesSvarney, 2006), the golden ratio, division, and the illustration of the fourth dimension - while it has also been used for art analysis, such as to reveal relationships between objects or body proportions. Art is useful as a complement to and illustration of mathematical content: diagrams, the golden ratio, trigonometric functions, etc. Revolutionary changes in the fields of art and mathematics have often been closely connected; for example, Renaissance art and the mathematics of that time, new four-dimensional mathematical ideas and Euclidean geometry (The Math and Art and the Art of Math, n.d.).

Throughout history, both artists and mathematicians have been enthusiastic about the same natural phenomena: why flowers have five or eight petals and only rarely six or seven; why snowflakes have a 6-fold symmetric structure; why tigers have stripes and leopards have spots, etc. Mathematicians would say that nature has a mathematical order, while artists would interpret this order as natural beauty with aesthetic value. Both descriptions are possible and reasoned. Children curiously ask the teacher why honeycomb cells always have a hexagonal shape, as they enjoy exploring nature and human creations through visual perception, as well as through smelling, touching, tasting, listening to how an object sounds, etc. These experiences lead students to the first mathematical concepts, elements of composition and of patterns containing lines, shapes, textures, sounds and colours. All of this artistic-mathematical beauty reveals itself in the form of shells, spider webs, pinecones and many other creations of nature, all of which teachers can use in class. These objects have been mathematically organised by humans; for example, shapes were mathematically organised in cave paintings in Lascaux, France, and in Altamira, Spain, more than 10,000 years ago (Bahn, 1998; Gardner & Kleiner, 2014).

In the course of history, society has always included people who have thought in different ways, who have solved problems or undertaken research with the help of previously untried methods. One such person is Escher, who took advantage of his artistic prints to illustrate hyperbolic geometry. Complementing professional mathematics, Escher's circle limit and his patterns demonstrate that art is an efficient transferor that brings mathematics and creative thinking closer to students. …

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