Finding the Math in Art

Dr. Danielle Goodwin’s geometry students hosted a poster session featuring their plans for integrating mathematics and artistic expression in Ross School’s High School Library on January 11. Their yearlong projects began with a trip to LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton to tease out geometrical concepts present in the sculptures and landscaping of the museum’s exhibits. It will culminate in entries for LongHouse Reserve’s Student Annual, a yearly competition where students submit works in various media inspired by their visit.

Working independently, each student came up with a plan for creating a piece of art that incorporates such geometrical ideas as translation, reflection, and rotation; similar triangles; compass and straightedge construction; proportional scaling; one-point perspective; and tiling. Mandalas, large or multi-element origami installations, dream catchers, paintings, and Plexiglas sculptures are among the forms students will implement in their quest to turn intangible mathematical theorems into three-dimensional objects.

The projects are made even more engaging by the fact that students clearly brought their own personal interests and fascinations into the mix. Val Kuchuk, an avid New England Patriots fan, researched and incorporated the geometry and physics of football into his presentation. Noah Sutter spoke about how he had been obsessed with origami as a young child, and how learning about isosceles triangles, perpendicular bisectors, and parallel lines rekindled his interest in the ancient art form. And Dillon Kab explained how geometry helped her gain a different perspective on Native American dream catchers, which she originally saw as mystical objects, but came to view as combinations of geometric principles.

Student presenters also filled the role of teacher, as groups of students from Ross’s lower grades circulated and asked questions about the projects. First graders traveled from the Lower School to take part, and many parents and teachers from multiple domains visited to experience these impressive examples of interdisciplinary integration. All visitors were invited to vote on the best poster presentation before leaving; the winner of the competition will earn extra credit in Dr. Goodwin’s class.