Using Art to Teach Maths CPD Webinar: A Review

Layla BegumArt in mathematics, surely someone has mixed up the classes. Can this hybrid be achieved in a 21st century classroom? Is this a gimmick? Those were a couple of questions looming in the back of my mind when I was first told about this webinar. 

Oh, how wrong I was.

Clarrissa Grandi of Artful Maths delivered this exceptional webinar on how mathematics and art can form a great harmony. The session started with introductions to many artists in the field and the exceptional work they do. We saw the works of Escher, George W Hart and my personal favourite Hamid Naderi Yeganeh. It was an eye opening first couple of minutes, when Clarissa showed us the work of these artists and told us it was done through mathematics! 

Starting with a simple piece of A4 printer paper, a HB pencil and a compass that is in our basic maths set, such elaborate pieces of artwork were brought to life. 

Clarissa went on to show the work of her students, which were all done using the equipment found in our classrooms. 

As many onlookers may wonder, why? Why would we bring art into mathematics? It is a very simple of an answer, many students haven’t been given any opportunity to get to explore using a compass or even a ruler, yet we expect them to know how to use it when the curriculum requires it. This harmony allows skill development for students as well as helping them gain problem solving skills and enrichment. 

Where do we have the time to allow this sort of activity to take place, we all wondered. The curriculum encompasses a variety of areas which allow for such a lesson to occur, the most obvious being geometry and measures. 

Once our main concerns were addressed and were all patiently waiting to have our own go, Clarrissa introduced the topic of ‘Curves of Pursuit’. It starts with the idea of a ‘three bugs’ problem, where the bugs are initially sitting at the corners of an equilateral triangle. Three predatory bugs are initially sitting at the corners of an equilateral triangle. All at once, each of the bugs begin crawling with equal speed directly toward the bug on their right. Hence the path the follow forms a curve. We took this notion further by splitting a regular hexagon into 6 equilateral triangles then drawing in the curves of pursuit. The results were very satisfying. 

Before getting to draw the hexagon, Clarissa introduced the concept of the seed of life, as shown below. This could then be used to form our regular hexagon by joining the intersection points of the outer circles. 

Clarissa also mentioned the circles can be continued to form the flower of life. Due to my curious nature I had to see for myself what it would look like. The results, as shown below, didn’t disappoint.

Going back to the task at hand, after meticulously drawing in the lines of pursuit the results are below. 

The collision of art and mathematics, in this simple task created fantastic artwork!

Being very inspired by Clarissa’s session on curves of pursuit, I wanted to create more!

Hence, I went on to draw what a ‘6 bug’ problem would look like, and what would happen if I split a triangle into equilateral triangles and then alternated the route of the bugs! The results were again very satisfying.

This session, personally, opened floodgates to a mind field of opportunities. The field is inspiring, creative and allows for so much scope for learning. We can tend to get drowned in the curriculum and forget how fun and engaging mathematics can be. If any percent of the work Clarissa does is brought into a classroom, I believe the students will feel a new sense of engagement towards mathematics. 

By Layla Begum

You can find Clarissa Grandi on Twitter as @c0mplexnumber.