Reflections by a Math teacher:
Own experience and the benefits of non-formal learning (namely Maths)
As a Maths teacher, and within the scope of the project “The Art of Mathematics”, I have implemented the units of MC Escher and Geometry in Islamic Art. The classes in which I have delivered these units were based on methodologies that are a little different from the traditional way of teaching. I had a lot of adhesion from my pupils, as they showed interest in some artistic concepts, allowing them not only to learn about Maths, but also about Art and culture.
The activity of MC Escher allowed pupils to get in touch with his works, as well as his ideas regarding various mathematical concepts, such as infinity, symmetries, rotations and tessellation. At the end, pupils were challenged to draw Escher’s “impossible cube”. They had fun while drawing it, always showing curiosity and even ending up with different perspectives of the cube. As for the activity on Islamic Art, after explaining the cultural meaning behind the different shaped stars, pupils were, likewise, able to reproduce them accurately and even created their own coloured patterns.
Their performance was overall really good. I was pleased to witness how engaged they were while working on these tasks!
Personally, I believe that this experience has allowed me to deepen cultural knowledge in various fields. This initiative was a success, as the activities allowed me to promote a more dynamic approach during classes.
Since a large part of pupils’ leisure and hobbies is somehow connected with art, using an artistic approach to teach in class was halfway there to stimulate their curiosity and therefore draw their attention and interest – even of those who are more distracted or experience more difficulties.
I have concluded from my experiences of teaching using non-formal methods, such as is the one promoted the The AMa project, that even the most distracted and disconnected pupils easily get involved with these activities. In addition to this positive fact, it is great to see the combination of Mathematics and Art, creating a win-win situation. This methodological approach and STE(A)M education in general have the potential to bring many benefits to the classroom because pupils can easily identify how real-world applications rely on STE(A)M subjects, allowing them to apply concepts and ideas in ”fun” and creative out-of-the-box methods.
Ultimately, this approach will improve their critical sense, their creativity and many other soft skills, which are very important for their personal and professional lives.