Put on Your Math Goggles! Exploring Linear Equations Using Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings

7th-8th grade algebra students attending All Saints’ Episcopal School recently donned their math goggles and engaged in a hands-on exploration of linear equations using the visual arts as a lens.

In order to challenge eighth graders’ graphing skills, students learned about the American artist, Sol LeWitt (1888-1976), who came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings. LeWitt’s work has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world since 1965. Some of his works can be viewed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s website (www.massmoca.org/).

LeWitt was a founder of Conceptual Art, an art movement in which art is constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions. That is, LeWitt would develop a concept, and then a group of trained artists would carry out a list of instructions in which he specified how to create his concept.

Using a coordinate grid, algebra students were given a set of instructions requiring them to graph a variety of colored lines in all four quadrants. While interpreting the instructions, students’ understandings of slope and intercepts were challenged.

At the end of class, the algebra teacher transformed a school hallway into a mathematical art gallery, showcasing her students’ artwork and mathematical thinking.

Does your school do something similar?

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