The Creative and Artistic World

The Creative and Artistic World includes applications of mathematics to work in the areas of literature, art, music, and textiles.

Literature can provide meaningful contexts in which students make sense of mathematics and construct their understandings of mathematical concepts.  Appropriately chosen literature sparks interest and curiosity in students while it stimulates communication.

  • How big was Paul Bunyan’s frying pan?  How can a measurement of 42 ax handles between the horns of Babe, Paul’s blue ox, be used to create a scale model of Babe?
  • Alice eats cake and drinks potions from bottles during her adventures in Wonderland.  How can her “growing” and “shrinking” be used to teach the meaning of multiplication of fractions?
  • How can Shel Silverstein’s poem “Eighteen Flavors” be used to explore searching for algebraic patterns?
  • Was William Shakespeare actually the pen name of the poet Edward de Vere?  Can statistics give an answer to this question? 

Good literature can present contexts that are powerful, relevant, and memorable while providing a vehicle for teaching mathematics effectively.

Art, music, and textiles can provide other contexts in which students experience mathematical concepts.  Investigating paintings, sculpture, tile and quilt patterns, ornamental ironwork, and musical scales allows students to apply mathematical concepts, use familiar mathematical concepts in new ways, or learn new concepts. 

  • Creating stained-glass windows allows students to learn and understand a variety of fundamental geometric vocabulary terms.
  • The topic of symmetry becomes real to students when they study decorative ornamental ironwork and design their own wrought-iron doors.
  • Ratios and roots are critical mathematical topics for understanding the well-tempered keyboard developed by Johann Sebastian Bach.
  • Designing patterns for Native American star quilts requires a knowledge of properties of polygons as well as angles and angle measurements.

Since art, music, and textiles are universal human creations, their use in teaching mathematics also presents opportunities for students to learn about and appreciate other cultures.