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Math + Art:

Mondrian and Art As Shapes


Today's Snack: With an adult's help and a sharp knife and cutting board, cut a piece of whole wheat bread into several small squares and rectangles. Mix them up on a small plate. Then put them back together like a puzzle. Once you "solve" your bread puzzle, blob a little peanut butter and jelly on your plate, pick up each piece of bread, dip it into the p.b. & j., and eat. A glass of milk which is in another shape - a cylinder - would go nicely, too.






White construction paper or cardstock

(In advance, adult should cut squares and rectangles in primary colors,

but children can cut them smaller if they wish)

Thin black electrical tape OR a thick black magic marker

Scissors | ruler | Scotch tape



Piet Mondrian (pronounced "Peet Moan dree OHN") was a Dutch artist. He grew up in the Netherlands. He lived from 1872 to 1944. Mondrian started off as a teacher, and painting was his hobby. At first, he painted realistic landscapes. But later, he developed a unique style all his own. And it was based on math!


Mondrian changed the way that people thought about art. Instead of being a realistic scene or a portrait of a person, art could be "abstract." We call art "abstract" if it doesn't look pretty close to something that's real.


Mondrian was famous for using horizontal and vertical black lines, and bright, colorful squares and rectangles, to express what he thought was very real - nature. He showed us nature not in a realistic way, but in an abstract way. He thought if you left out details and clutter, you could get to the pure harmony of nature and show what it's like at its core.


Math is just like that. Using geometry (jee AHM uh tree), the kind of math that works with points, lines, angles and shapes, you can make a work of art that has meaning, but it doesn't look like anything you see in the real world. it is abstract, meaning it represents ideas, but it doesn't have pictures and words that could get in the way. Just shapes, lines and colors.


Here are some examples of Mondrian's art work:





Now you can make art and use math skills, the way Mondrian did.


Let's focus on three math terms before we get started:


1.      Lines that go up and down are "vertical" lines. Can you see vertical lines in Mondrian's artwork?

2.      Lines that go from side to side are "horizontal" lines. Point to horizontal lines in Mondrian's picture. Can you see different lengths?

3.      Lines that run along at the same distance from one another are called "parallel." Can you see parallel lines in Mondrian's work?


Now use the materials to make a picture like Mondrian's that uses a white background, vertical and horizontal lines, parallel lines, rectangles, squares and the primary colors, red, yellow and blue.


You can copy Mondrian's patterns, or make one of your very own!


You can learn more about Mondrian and other fine artists on

Learn more about Mondrian:



By Susan Darst Williams Math + Art 2015

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