The Art of Math program at Oakridge Secondary School in the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) strives to foster imagination and creativity while also developing a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. In this program, Visual Arts and Mathematics curricula are blended and taught together to create a unified learning experience for students in Grades 9 and 10. Creating opportunities for students to explore mathematical and visual concepts together allows them to adapt and transfer their mathematics knowledge into different contexts. This program combines both applied and academic math pathways with an open-level art credit. Throughout this program, students complete the same art explorations, however the types of math tasks and concepts that connect through art are differentiated based on their individual learning pathway.
The Art of Math program is a fun and engaging way for students to see art and math in the world around them. For the student who struggles in math, or is new to art, or for those students who are passionate about math and art, this program encourages everyone to extend their learning and apply concepts in new and innovative ways.
The Art of Math program inspires reflections and learnings on a number of themes, including:
- the power of team teaching and staff collaboration
- cross-curricular learning
- student well-being including math anxiety
- the role and support of school and system leadership
Here are a number of videos and activities that explore these themes, as well as ideas and learnings from the Oakridge Secondary School team on how to launch a similar program in your own school.
Cross Curricular Learning:
Examples of Cross-Curricular Learning Opportunities:
Perspective drawing: Slope and rate of change are directly connected to effective perspective drawing. If the slope of a drawing is not accurate, the piece of art as a whole is distorted. Similarly, if a drawing of a building looks slanted, a student knows there is an issue with the parallel and perpendicular lines within the drawing.
Ratios and colour mixing: Ratios and proportional relationships between colour are directly related to the development and creation of colours and gradients. When creating scale drawings or larger works, it is important to ensure the proportional relationship between colours remains constant to create consistent shades.
Composite shapes: Students can analyze properties of composite shapes when creating artwork or decomposing decomposing artwork into series of composite geometric shapes.
Math being driven by art: Building efficient containers for sculptures involved students using the most efficient and optimized packaging.
Art becomes a tool to communicate understanding of math: When given an image or drawing a shape, encourage students to ask these types of questions: “what do I notice?”, “how does that link to what I am learning?”, and “how can I represent that?”
Reducing Math Anxiety and Supporting Student Well-Being:
Examples of Reducing Math Anxiety and Supporting Student Well Being:
Students in the Art of Math program were surveyed about their experience. The survey revealed that:
- 87% of students felt the cross-curricular art projects helped them better understand the math.
- 78 % of students found it more interesting/engaging to complete math based on their own artwork rather than a textbook question
- 78% of students felt the bundled courses helped their social well-being
From the survey, one grade 9 Art of Math student shared “I never thought I was good at Math, I just realized I wasn’t learning it in a way that made sense to me.”
Role and Support of School and System Leadership:
Examples of Administrator Recommendations on Timetabling and Staffing:
The role of the administrator is critical in creating conditions that support this type of student engagement and educator collaboration. Some examples include:
- Thought-out timetable schedules so that the teachers had a common preparation period to provide regular opportunities for co-planning and collaboration.
- Flexibility as an administrator to help students and classes work around the building. While their home classroom was a home base, student groups and teachers often worked from other school-based locations, including the cafeteria, atrium, and other school spaces.
- When creating cross-curricular course programs, consider course combinations that bring together a mandatory credit with an elective credit or second mandatory credit. This helps build ongoing sustainability of the interdisciplinary course model.
The program was timetabled and scheduled as per student and staffing guidelines and included the equivalent number of students and amount of space to fulfill two classes/section. One issue faced with staffing was how to replace a teacher in this specialized course bundle if/when needed. As the teaching model included two regular teachers, in instances when one teacher was away, replacement occasional teachers were supported by the co-lead teacher. An added bonus of this model was that as occasional teachers came into the classroom model, there was a growing understanding of the nature of the program, and an increased number of system educators introduced to this collaborative teaching model.
Reflections from Mike Phillips, Principal Oakridge SS – 2018-2019:
“As an incoming Principal, I find the Art of Math bundles to be invaluable. They provide students of all levels (locally developed, applied and academic) who don’t see themselves as math learners the opportunity to gain confidence with math skills while learning in a cross-curricular environment. As well, student data (EQAO results, course pass rates and classroom culture surveys) show that students in the Art of Math program are very successful. The Art of Math bundles are a unique classroom experience where students are fully engaged in the Ontario Visual Art and Math curriculum simultaneously. If interested in seeing it in action, teachers and/or administrators can contact the school to arrange a possible visit.”
Team Teaching and Collaboration:
Educator Recommendations on the Collaborative Team-Teaching Model:
- Staff should engage in a series of cross-curricular projects prior to initiating this team-teaching model to help develop the collaborative working relationship between colleagues.
- Ensure teachers can teach together in the same space simultaneously. When teaching together in this model, both educators found more connections to their subsequent subject areas.