Often times, I speak from the perspective of a classroom teacher trying to integrate the arts into their content curriculum. However, it is becoming increasingly more common (and has been for years) for art teachers to integrate other subject areas into their art lessons. Yet, even though many arts teachers have actively been integrating across the curriculum for decades, I still receive questions from arts teachers on new ways to connect what they do in a relevant way to many contents, but particularly to math.
While at first glace the integration of art and math would seem like trying to mix oil and water, there are many useful ways to integrate these two subjects. Children can use colors and shapes to enhance their understanding of math. They can also apply math theory to pictures and objects. When thinking of math not strictly in terms of arithmetic, but also in terms of problem solving, geometry, and visualization, ideas will start to materialize for integrated lesson plans.
See the list below for ways to integrate art and math in an elementary classroom. If you are an aspiring elementary school teacher, you may find online courses for education degree programs helpful as you begin to learn more about the pedagogy of integrating subjects.
Activities and Lesson Ideas
- Cut snowflakes to study symmetry: Paper snowflakes are a great example of radial symmetry. This activity is an enjoyable and interesting way to incorporate a seasonal art project with mathematics.
- Telling time activity: Students draw a clock and color in two circles around the circumference of the clock. Make the inner circle blue. This corresponds to the hours on the clock. Make the outer circle red. This corresponds to the minutes. Do not write in the numbers. Just write in line demarcations in place of the minute hands. Construct an hour and minute hand, color them the corresponding blue and red colors, and fasten them to the center clock so that they can freely rotate around. This lesson helps students visualize the imaginary numbers that are on the clock. Ask students about what numbers correspond to the placement of the hands on the clock and have them count by 5′s all the way up to 60.
- Cut geometric shapes of different shapes for collages: This helps teach and reinforce understanding of shapes. Have students cut circles, triangles, squares and other shapes of different sizes. Incorporate them into a paper collage.
- Count art projects: A fun and interactive way for elementary school students do math is to count the art supplies that are distributed (“Let’s count the crayons on the desk”) and collected (“Let’s count the erasers that were turned in”). Also students can count various objects on a specific art project, such as the number of animals on a painting or the number of people on a drawing.
- Make measurements: Emphasize the measurements that students make by using rulers to measure grids or cut frames for art projects. Also, students can take their rulers and measure various objects around the classroom, such as paper, crayons, the chalkboard, books, paintbrushes, and their desk. Students can also sort their art materials according to their sizes.
- Determine ratio for paint mixing: When mixing and blending colors, teach students the ratios used in the mixing, such as “2 parts blue + one part green” and “4 parts white + 1 part grey.”
There are many fun and educational ways to integrate art and math for elementary school students. If you are looking to secure a job in elementary education or are in the midsts of earning early childhood education degree, Arts Integration is a wonderful way to engage your students and spark your own creativity!