Written by Emerson Sandow
$24.95, Available at www.mathdrawings.com
Review by Linda Foster
Math Drawings by Mary Smale is an exciting multi-disciplinary method of incorporating art with math allowing students to create entire pictures using only basic geometric shapes. For over 30 years, Mary Smale taught algebra and other math disciplines in high school and middle school. During this time, she developed her unique math-based art lesson, originally used as a reward system for her 8th grade students.
Mary soon found that she was able to disguise new and old math vocabulary as instructions for drawing and, for the first time in her teaching career, she had 100% participation in her math lessons. Her students were able to combine their love for drawing with basic geometric principles to create “works of art”. Mary later taught math and art on television for 2½ on the Los Angeles based KLCS-TV program “Homework Hotline Teacher” and was ultimately convinced to write Math Drawings so her principles could be used by teachers in their art, history and special education classes.
Math Drawings is designed for use by fourth grade level students and older. Anyone who can draw a straight line with a ruler can draw the pictures in Math Drawings. The level of the lesson is determined by the age-appropriate level of vocabulary the teacher uses to provide the drawing instructions. As noted in the Forward of the book, “Likewise, these same instructions can make Math Drawing lessons interdisciplinary; thus, in addition to math and art classes, the lessons can be adapted to work well in history, science, and special education classes.”
Math Drawings includes instructions for four drawings, each including a series of clearly-written step-by-step instructions. Each line of the drawing is provided on a separate page so the progression from first line to last can be easily demonstrated. Each page also includes math vocabulary that is cleverly disguised as instructions for the drawing. Teachers describe the lines to be drawn using the lesson’s vocabulary or vocabulary age appropriate to the class being taught. The teacher then draws each line or shape on the board and waits for the students to duplicate it on their own papers. The process is repeated for each line or shape until the desired picture is completed.
As has been proven in the past, students will be amazed at how easily they are able to produce a detailed drawing using basic geometric shapes. To stimulate individual creativity, Mary suggests that teachers encourage students to personalize drawings with their own finishing touches. Following the instructions in Math Drawings, students will progress from drawing tin cans using four shapes to drawing more elaborate Roman arches involving angles, perpendicular lines, slopes of lines, triangles, vanishing point lines, etc.
Each drawing is designed to take between one to two class periods to complete although it can actually take as much or as little time as the teacher deems necessary. Each set of drawing instructions includes examples of other disciplines that can be taught by the particular drawing. For example, it is suggested that the history of the automobile or the role of the macadamized road n furthering civilization can be incorporated into the City By The Sea drawing lesson. In addition to suggestions for multidisciplinary use, each math drawing includes a list of materials necessary for the lesson and the appropriate vocabulary words that will be used.
Math Drawings is an extremely unique and engaging method of teaching math principles through the use of art. It is a proven method of teaching that solidifies math concepts and opens the door to student creativity. If you need a way to help your students connect with and understand math, Math Drawings is an excellent source of inspiration. For additional information or to purchase Math Drawings, please visit www.mathdrawings.com. L.F