Teaching Math Through the Art of Sol LeWitt (elementary)

Last changed: 05/29/2019 11:26am
4 , 5
Visual Art Math
Grade Level Program Alignment
1 60 min
In-School Short Term Residency
All year
$10 40
no Email , Phone
Extra colored pencils if needed.
Pencils, colored pencils or crayons, rulers, erasers, and pc projector
general classroom setup
I can more fully understand and use mathematical vocabulary and concepts including geometry, algebraic patterns, numerical relationships, and measurement. I can follow a set of pre-written instructions to reinforce these mathematical concepts. I can create my own instructions using these mathematical skills. I can use various tools (rulers, levels, tape measures) to measure, align, or orient their work.
Sol LeWitt was a Connecticut artist famous for a series of abstract wall drawings based on his theory of conceptual art. Like the composer of a musical score, LeWitt wrote the instructions for his paintings and let others actually create the paintings. These abstract wall drawings often included geometric shapes, algebraic patterns, and mathematical combinations that can be used as a springboard for teaching math.

Students will begin by analyzing LeWitt’s approach to art, comparing his instructions to his finished wall painting to better understand the connections between language, math and art. Using what they have learned, they will create their own mathematical drawing and translate the math behind the drawing into a set of written instructions to be interpreted by another student. This entire process provides a hands-on, in-depth approach to better understanding and applying mathematical vocabulary and models of algebraic thinking.

On day one, students will view LeWitt artwork and the instructions. They will take on the role of a LeWitt draftsman and follow a series of instructions specifically tied to their mathematical curriculum. Through this hands-on approach, students will demonstrate their understanding of mathematical vocabulary and their ability to follow a set of step-by-step detailed instructions accurately. Students will be able to compare and contrast the resulting drawings to determine why differences occur and which types of interpretations are consistent with the instructions and which are not.

On day two, students will use Sol LeWitt’s approach to create their own drawings and instructions. Students then swap instructions and try to create a drawing from the directions alone. This often requires some collaboration and modification with the original creator to clarify and adjust the written instructions. The original and re-created drawings will be compared and differences and reasons behind these differences discussed.

Grade 4

Mathematics: Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Generate and analyze patterns. 5. Generate a number or shape pattern that follows a given rule. Identify apparent features of the pattern that were not explicit in the rule itself.
Mathematics: Geometry: Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles. 1. Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures. 2. Classify two-dimensional figures based on the presence or absence of parallel or perpendicular lines, or the presence or absence of angles of a specified size. Recognize right triangles as a category, and identify right triangles.
Visual Art: Creating: Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work: Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem.
Visual Art: Responding: Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work: Analyze components in visual imagery that convey messages.

Grade 5

Grade 5: Mathematics: Geometry: Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems: Cluster #2: Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.
Grade 5: Mathematics: Measurement & Data: Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system: Cluster #1: Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.
Grade 5: Visual Arts: Creating: Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work: Identify and demonstrate diverse methods of artistic investigation to choose an approach for beginning a work of art.
Grade 5: Visual Arts: Responding: Anchor Standard #8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work: Interpret art by analyzing characteristics of form and structure, contextual information, subject matter, visual elements, and use of media to identify ideas and mood conveyed.
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Beth Klingher