Math Through Art & Literacy

728 Learning math is by far one of the hardest subjects to teach and make a fun and creative experience.   One method I recommend is teaching math through the arts.  Using art as an avenue to teach math is one that should not describe the product or encourage memorization.  Learning math concepts through art should be an experience where the child is engaging the brain functions needed to practice the newly acquired skills.  The case for learning multiplication and division can be exercised in dance.  In dance, the steps and rhythms are counted in number sets such as: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; 3, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…and so on.  At the end of the count the instructor can ask how many sets of eight were able to fit inside of the sequence.  Then, in reverse ask how many counts made up the sequence.  In essence we have multiplied the sets of eight by three to get the total number of counts and divided the sequence by three to get the number of sets.  We can also number the sets by starting with the number by which it falls in order (look at the numbers in bold, they represent the order in which they fall in sets (first set of eight, second set of eight, third set of eight…and so on).    

730 In music we have to count in order to stay on the beat.  Each note in a sheet of music holds a certain number of counts to make the note a part of music.  Notes we hold for 4 beats become what we know to be a whole note.  When we hold and count to two we hold what we call a half note.  By learning the simple counts to notes and how long to hold them, we can divide them by fractions and numbers hold their indicator.  When I was a little dancer we had class activities where we danced in a circle and the speaker on the tape would say “hold!” and count for two, three, four seconds where we were expected to hold a pose for that long with a scarf or some other inanimate object which gave us inspiration.  The music would continue and off we went moving about and changing heights and steps to the beat.

When we combine the primary colors to make secondary colors we are adding colors together in the same type of equation as we do in math.  We are putting red and blue together to make purple in the same way we are putting two and three together to make five.  When we practice mixing colors we are practicing the formula emphasized format for understanding mathematical concepts.

There are a number of ways children can learn math through the arts and literacy.  It gives children the opportunity to be creative and learn something at the same time.  The arts are not just for the sake of art in the place of education, in fact, it fits the molds of learning mathematics.

Great books that combine literacy and math:
How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz
How Many Mice?  by Michael Garland
One White Sail by T.S. Garne


Blog Entry by:

Leslie Fraser is the Arts and Nature Education Specialist at Kidspace Children’s Museum and has been working with children in the field of arts for the last 4.5 years.  Leslie has taught many early learners classes in the arts and sciences at Kidspace and strives to combine the best of both worlds.