Fractions & Art Integration

Working with the Agency by Design project has changed the way I teach traditional art projects. In the maker-centered learning environment one often starts with close looking and taking something apart. We all know that artists do a lot of close looking, but I wondered how the taking apart might become more visible. My collaborating teacher, Michelle Beal, wanted to support students’ understandings of parts to a whole in fractions so I chose to experiment with grid drawing.

Emerson Elementary Cheetahs: In this one-lesson integration experience students looked at work by the Artist, Chuck Close. In groups they discussed: What do you SEE? What do you THINK? What do you WONDER? 

Next, the young artists learned to make a value scale and think about proportion. This was important so that they could transfer the small image from the cheetah onto a larger square. Like Chuck Close we made a grid drawing, but each person enlarged just 2 or 3 of the parts and we put them all together to make a collaborative drawing. As we added squares to the drawing we kept track of the growing fraction of the cheetah that was filled in – from 1/76th on up.

fractions.image1 fractions.image2Student Reflections

I drew 2/76th of the cheetah. I learned that you can use a grid to draw different kinds of things.

I drew 7/76th of the cheetah. I learned that arts use fractions, which I didn’t know.

[I drew] 3/76th. I learned that when you color in 38 squares you’re really coloring in half.

Teacher Reflection, Ms. Brooke

The goal of this collaboration was to do an art project that would support the students’ understanding of fractions and in particular their understanding of parts to a whole. I notice in the students’ reflections after the art experience that almost everyone can name the fraction that represents how many pieces of the cheetah they themselves drew. For me this means that students can at least make the link between the art experience and math and I hope that it sparks their curiosity about what else is made of fractions in the world around us.  Almost everything!

My next wondering is around whether or not this activity will help Ms. Beal in teaching fractions and how will she refer back to it. I also made the transparency piece that outlines 1/2, 1/4, and other fractions of the whole cheetah so students could see the relationships between different fractions. We didn’t have a lot of time to debrief this part so I wonder if and how Ms. Beale will find this useful and might use her expertise to dive in deeper. I hope this activity supported students’ conceptual understandings of numeracy and I wonder how it could be extended into a whole unit. 


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