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Math + Art:

When Math and Art Mix


Today's Snack: Let's make several works of "math art" before we scarf down our snack! With eight saltine crackers and two squares of thin-sliced cheese, how many different patterns or arrangements of squares and rectangles could you make on a plate before you eat them? Note that you can divide the cheese into smaller squares and rectangles by folding and tearing the slices; it's pretty hard to cut a cracker without crumbling it, but you can try it. Now eat, and enjoy. Today, we learn that math and art mix . . . and math and SNACKS mix, too!






Black and white construction paper

Scissors | ruler | Scotch tape



We all know that music and math are interrelated. In fact, a child who sings in a choir is getting a leg up in math studies, and it shows, in test scores. There's something powerful about matching up the mental skills needed to read musical notes, calibrate your voice to it, keep up with the lyrics, and keep the beat. All those complex operations pay off in better thinking skills and math achievement, and that's a big reason most parents insist on vocal and/or instrumental music training for their children.


But did you know that math and art are interconnected, too? Mathematical calculations are common in fine art that you see in museums and people's homes, although the uneducated eye might not realize it.


For example, take a look at this oil painting, "Arithmetic Composition," completed by Theo van Doesburg (a Dutch painted who lived from 1883-1931) in 1930. What mathematical relationships can you see?


The sides of each square, and the distance between each square, are twice as big, moving from square to square, smallest to largest. Van Doesburg was interested in how art and architecture work together, and he used mathematics clearly and effectively in his painting.


You can definitely see the relationships between math and art in the life work of another Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). He is probably the most famous artist who enhanced both fields - art and math - by combining them with genius originality. Read more about him on


Now, using your knowledge of math plus construction paper, a ruler, scissors and tape, create a work of art that involves mathematics! Be ready to explain the mathematical relationships that you have embedded in your work of art.



By Susan Darst Williams Math 2010

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