The act of creating beautiful artwork is only one aspect of what art entails. It’s closely related to mathematics. Math art is an exciting and creative way to make mathematics more interesting and fun. It can help us appreciate how math can be analytical, yet creative.
Mathematical art is a technique for making math visually appealing, interactive, engaging, and even inspiring. It’s easy to see the connection between math and art when you consider some of the elements of art, such as line, 2d shapes, form, and positive and negative space, . You may have noticed that artists such as Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian relied on geometric shapes, patterns, and spatial reasoning throughout their work.
That is why in recent years, educators have moved their focus from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM – adding art to the mix.
What is Math Art and Why is it So Cool?
Since ancient times, math art has been depicted on historical sculptures, textiles, and paintings. It is a simple way to use your creativity and create something beautiful while still applying the math concepts in your artwork. Some examples of math art are: the Mandalas, fractals, weaving, symmetry, tessellations, mobius strips and patterns.
When art is used to teach math, kids are able to grasp concepts quickly as these abstract ideas become more concrete. The process typically begins with observations, analysis, and questions, followed by creative activities that encourages critical thinking skills. Kids eventually become more interested in math concepts and vocabulary. When kids create math art projects, they improve their estimation, counting and measurement skills while identifying patterns, shapes and symmetry.
For a little extra fun and enrichment, let’s take a look at some examples of what cool things famous artists have made using shapes and patterns in innovative ways. This section includes a link to the artist’s work, and the math component associated with the art.
Examples of Awesome Forms of Math Art
Math is often perceived as boring and hard. But, many people don’t realize that there are also a lot of fun ways to learn mathematics. In fact, some people have even turned it into art!
There are many amazing math artists who have created works of art using mathematical concepts like fractals, geometry, algebra, ratios and more. Check out these awesome forms of math art for inspiration for your next project or just because they’re beautiful! You can click on any artist name below to see examples of their work.
In his composition series, abstract artist Piet Mondrian’s experimented with lines and primary colors. In his artwork, black vertical and horizontal lines intersected to form rectangular and square sections, some of which he colored using the primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.
Show the kids this image and ask them to identify the shapes used by the artist in his paintings ? Have them reflect on, compare, and contrast the properties of the lines, angles, shapes and learn about area and fractions of shapes they see in the painting.
The paintings in Mondrian composition series are an excellent example to teach about lines, shapes and fractions. Allow the kids to use vocabulary such as intersecting, straight, parallel, perpendicular, horizontal and vertical lines , angles and shapes.
Sol Lewitt was an American conceptual artist who worked in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a minimalist artist who focused on simple shapes, lines, grids and color in his work. According to him, artists’ ideas are works of art, and can be used as blueprints for future works, like when an architect develops an idea, then others interpret the idea and make it.
He believed everyone draws lines differently and understands words differently. Most of the time, he gave vague instructions to his assistants to follow and interpret. As a result, he, as an artist, who conceptualized the work could not control the final result. The instruction manual for his artwork included mathematical equations, patterns, geometry, and proportion.
To integrate math with art, Sol LeWitt’s wall drawing can be a great example to explore linear algebra. Using a set of algebraic equations, ask the kids to graph a variety of colored lines in all four quadrants to create their artwork. For example, using a coordinate grid, give a set of instructions ( like in quadrant 1, graph green lines with varying slopes but with the same y-intercept. Or in quadrant II, graph lines with zero slope and off y-intercept and so on ).
Similarly, you can create a lesson plan on four-sided Pyramid sculpture to explore geometric solids, ratios, patterns, arithmetic sequences, and permutations.
M.C. Escher’s artwork is notable for its use of tessellations and for providing unusual views of everyday items and settings. The iconic tessellation drawings of M.C. Escher with animals and birds is a great visual anchor point for learning a difficult concept like tessellations.
When we cover a surface with patterns that use interlocking geometric shapes with no overlaps or gaps, we call it Tessellation (or Tiling). Using simple examples like patterns, symmetry, and reflections, you may teach kids the basics of tessellation using Escher’s paintings. Begin with discussing different types of symmetry in art (mirror images, rotational symmetry), then move on to examples from nature (such as snowflakes), and finally, man-made symmetries like brick walls or tile flooring.
This way kids will be introduced to some of the mathematical rules that are used when creating repeating patterns. These include translation (changing a shape’s position), rotation (rotating a shape to a different position), and reflection (flipping the shape so that it looks like a mirror image of itself). Finally, show kids how M.C. Escher applied these concepts to his own work.
Best Places TO VISIT to Get Inspired by Math-based ART
There is a small but growing number of museums that focus on math-based art. Some of these museums have interactive exhibits where you can try out some patterns yourself!
We’d love to hear about any other places that would be worth adding in the comments!
- Where Art meets Math – Smithsonian Museum have a collection of paintings depicting mathematical concepts on display.
- National Institute of Mathematics is a place of wonder and surprise, showcasing the incredible role that mathematics plays in our everyday lives. From dynamic exhibits to stimulating programs, it will reveal all its wonders!
- Mathematikum Museum is a place to explore the world of mathematics in a fun and interactive way. Experience geometrical puzzles that challenge your sense for shapes and proportions; discover where the golden ratio exists within your own body; see yourself an infinite number of times by playing with mirrors; much more!
- Ada Dietz, a math teacher and weaver created a system for generating textile designs using multivariate polynomials raised to different powers. Try creating your own pattern here.
Want to learn some geometry and problem solving skills? Pick up a copy of the book recommended below. This is an excellent way for you to enjoy both mathematics as well as works by one of greatest artists, ever!
( Disclosure : Some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase )
Conclusion: Why You Should Do More Mathematical Creative Work AND MAKE Awesome Patterns!
Math art bridges the gap between mathematics and arts by translating complex mathematical ideas into creative artwork.
Visualizing concepts through art such as drawing, models and sculpting can make them more relevant to kids who find memorizing formulas difficult. In other words, why should they care about different angles or shapes? It’s only when they’re able to see it illustrated does it really start making sense—and create interest .
I hope you enjoyed exploring the different ways that mathematic can inspire art, design and creativity. There are many more artists out there who have found their own unique voice through our mathematical world. Perhaps this article will encourage you to try something new and creative, like using geometry-inspired shapes in your next artistic endeavor. I hope this blog post has shown how math can inspire great things – including yours!
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