In this lesson, students use math to create unique pieces of art. It is important for students of all ages to use mathematics in real world applications, and one of the best ways to do this is through the connection of visual art and mathematics.
Sol LeWitt was an American artist who emphasized ideas over final products. Because of this, he sent out directions to various art institutions across the country. Employees used these directions to create artwork. Using this concept, students can be given a set of directions that requires the knowledge of fractions and geometrical concepts to create a piece of art. Students complete their art piece on black paper that is lightly divided into 24 grid units. The directions require students to solve mathematical problems such as “3/8 of the grid units contain a dashed vertical line using an analogous color” in order to complete the art piece. Though each child, or group of children, is given the same set of directions, each art work will be slightly different. This helps lead a discussion on “What is art?” By requiring students to apply mathematical concepts in order to produce a final product, we are encouraging critical thinking and cooperation.
For this lesson, students are given directions, much like the employees at various institutions that LeWitt worked with.
Note: students will need one black piece of paper, colored chalk pastels or paint, and a set of directions)
I begin this lesson, by asking the question “What is art?” I lead the students in a discussion about what makes up art? Then I show students several images from Sol LeWitt in order for students to see images from this artist. Several images as well a fraction lesson plan can be found at this site.
Next I review with students the primary and analogous colors. Also review line types and specific geometric shapes. I then explain to students that they will create a Sol LeWitt inspired art piece. Each student will receive the same set of directions to complete the art piece. They must follow the directions when completely the art piece..
I handout the directions and supplies to the students. I instruct students to fold a piece of paper, (not their black piece of paper) into 12 equal pieces OR 24 equal pieces. They will use this paper and a ruler to help make 12 or 24 equal rectangles on their black paper.
You can see in this example a student has LIGHTLY marked their rectangles with pencil. When the black paper is folded, the folds distract from the lines students add.
Using 12 equal parts or 24 is important because students will work with fourths, thirds, and twelfths. I love giving my students choice as often as I can. When doing an art project like this, in which students all get the same set of directions, I am always thinking of how I can add the element of choice into the project to ensure student ownership and joy.
Students need to be able to create equivalent fractions with fourths, thirds, and twelfths. While students essentially are finding fractions of numbers and fractions as sets, I do not present this art lesson in that way. Using multiplication to finding fractions of a number is more a fifth grade skill, but listen in as this student explains how she is determining how many lines she should add to her rectangles.
Listen to another student determining how many rectangles to use for twelfths when she has 24 equal parts.
As students work, I circulate around the room and ask questions about student choices. You can see in the photo below a student working.