Math Art: Art as the Hub for Technology in Education

Even Art educators cannot avoid the fact that they have entered the world of technology, especially computer graphics technology. Arts and Technology projects have proven to be a new life source for supporting the Arts curricula by incorporating technology projects for all disciplines into the Art classroom.

The Magnet program at Coral Reef High School, Miami, FL, serves as an excellent example of this approach to technology and the arts. Coral Reef offers several Academy Programs. Each program requires that students from all disciplines produce written and illustrated portfolios for every subject area and the success of these portfolios determines, to a large extent, the grade the student will receive. My Computer Graphics classes are required for students pursuing an Arts major. However they have also become the most popular electives for students from other disciplines because they facilitate the development of exceptional portfolio materials.

Recently, students in the International Baccalaureate program have flooded these classes and the result has been that all the teachers serving the International Baccalaureate Academy work with many of the same students that attend my courses. Because they work with so many of the same students, the International Baccalaureate teachers have begun working closely with me, as well as with other teachers from the Arts program whose courses also support IB portfolio projects. The result is a powerful push to incorporate the arts into projects for all subjects from math and science to English and social studies.

A good example of this exciting trend is the Math Art curriculum completed during the 2003-2004 school year. Most states have Math rubrics and a curriculum that teachers must follow. By working with the math teacher and applying these requirements to art exercises, I proved that the Art teacher can demolish any boundaries thought to exist between Art and other disciplines and erase the erroneous, long held, idea that Art is a frivolous elective.

I first discovered the links between art and math in the 1980's while teaching Middle School photography, where I introduced the first version of Adobe Photoshop to my photography classes. The software was used to produce a remarkable body of work focusing on the effects of Hurricane Andrew. Students started with photo images and introduced emotional content through Photoshop. During this introduction to Photoshop, we began to see a connection between many features in Photoshop and Math. Students began experimenting with actions, paths, and filters and began applying what are literally “visual math†tools to their imaging projects. Because they were working on Art projects and could see the concepts and watch changes as they altered curves and percentages and worked with graphs, they were able to apply math concepts with ease. These experiments resulted in marked improvements in Math scores for all students who learned Adobe Photoshop in my classes. To further build on these results, I worked closely with the Math teacher at Coral Reef High School to formalize Math related projects and insure that the concepts and experiments were on target and met the needs of the Math curriculum. The results of these collaborations produced portfolio work that is both beautiful and educational. (See examples of student final projects below)

Digi-Compass by P. Mariccinni

Unraveling by M. O’Connor

More examples of the Math Art project as well as a full course workbook that will enable anyone to teach this project in their own classroom is featured at Math Art: mathematical visualization using Adobe software in the on-line Adobe Curriculum Exchange Library.

As with many other early adopters, I am largely self-trained. Though it may be daunting to some art teachers to embrace computer graphics tools, I urge all educators to shorten their learning curves by diving in and using the on-line support that is now available to teachers on nearly all hardware and software Web sites. I also urge all educators to collaborate with the Arts faculty to set up cross disciplinary training programs for other teachers, and to introduce technology into their classrooms through projects completed in the Arts classrooms. Another approach to bringing technology and the arts into other disciplines is to have the students themselves become the teachers. As a result of my classes at Coral Reef, not only have the students produced amazing portfolios and made the Arts program a focal point for learning; students have also developed art and technology course modules of their own to teach in other classes and share with community outreach programs.

You can find many other course workbooks with full instruction on developing technology and arts course modules for many disciplines at Adobe Education Curriculum Exchange

Be sure to view the on-line training for all Adobe products, also available at Math Art: Mathematical Visualization using Adobe Software

By: Colette Stemple