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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

New to PBL - Help with driving question!! Art + Math

New to PBL - Help with driving question!! Art + Math

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My administrator and I are collaborating on doing project based learning for the last 6 - 7 weeks. The task at hand: Students are given 4 masterpieces in which they have to survey x amount of people and see which artwork is favored among the group. Next as a group they will have to replicate the painting. This will deal with scale, lines, angles, etc. We need some help with a driving question? We understand we should have done that first but we got the ball rolling and we were brainstorming. This is all we have thus far. We think its too broad or even too vague? How does math influence art? Thoughts, help! Note this is for a 5th grade math class but we are integrating it with art :)

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james a. bellanca's picture
james a. bellanca
Exec. Dir., Illinois 21 ( Illinois Consortium for 21st Century Schools

Before the driving question ask "what is it that I want the students to know or do as a result of this project?" The statement you presented about geometric shapes was very fuzzy. Take a look at the grade level standard and it will suggest both the critical/mathematical thinking students have to do and the specific content to know. Once you have this very clear, then you can look for your driving question that is connected to the art and come up with the different strategies that will take them from the observation to the replication. (I would prefer that they make a replication that shows their new math understandings with less replication being replaced by a more innovative representation of their own making.)

M Randall's picture
M Randall
Elementary Art teacher (1st - 5th grades) in Guadalajara, Mexico

Your question, "How does math influence art?" is on the right track. Many times people attempt to bring art into a curriculum by requiring it to support a more "accepted" subject such as math when, in fact, math supports art... If you want to be a successful artist, it would be of benefit to know your math!

Are any of the chosen Masterpieces portraits? That famous mathematician, Leonardo de Vinci's theory of human proportions states that each person is in proportion to them self. For example: the eyes are always half way down the head, considerably lower than many think; the tip of the nose and where the lips part divide the lower half of the face into thirds; the width of an eye is equal to the width between the eyes, and so forth. Perhaps your students could arm themselves with rulers find more relationships on their own....

What about structure? Where is the primary focus of each painting? Is the painting an example of Symmetrical or Asymmetrical or Radiant balance? Do any of them implement the Golden Mean in the composition?

Then there is color: If students try to match as exactly as they can a certain green or orange or purple, what proportions of each primary color do they need? Is it 3:1/ yellow:blue, or something else?

A delving into any resource with the J. Paul Getty Foundation's Data Based Art Education regarding Art Elements and Design Principles may give you more ideas. I applaud your intentions! Good luck!

Ms. Zack's picture
Ms. Zack
Math Teacher @ a Project Based Learning Charter High School Brighton, MI

Hello all, I'm doing something similar at the high school level. Our art teacher and I are co-teaching a class next year called the Art & Architecture of Geometry and every 6 weeks we will have a new focus (for math and art!) and a new project. This seems similar to one we are incorporating in which our driving question is something along the lines of: How do artists use math to support them in creating masterpieces?

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