Can art help kids learn math? I have a personal story to tell. It is one of the most memorable lessons I learned from a teacher, a lesson went beyond art and math, a lesson impacted how I teach my own child.
When I was a middle school student, I was not very good in geometry. I just could not picture those shapes and angles in my head, or see them. I had been very good in math, but I was stuck in geometry, especially when it involved 3D shapes. I was really frustrated. I started getting B’s and C’s in tests. It was almost humiliating because I was used to seeing A’s and A+’s.
Learning Geometric Scale and 3D Relationship
One day, my math teacher stopped me after class. She told me she and the art teacher created an after school art club. She suggested I join the club. I like art, so I was really interested. The next day, she told me that several of my friends were joining the club, too. Once a week, after school, several students gathered together at the art room. I learned how to draw shapes, learned how to draw the objects in a smaller scale when it was far to show the depth of the scene, learned how to use shadow to show the 3D effect, learned the different shades of the colors …
Time went fast. Before I realized it, the school year had come to the end. I loved the art club, and so did the other students. We continued getting together throughout the summer.
But there was one thing I did not realize till years later when I visited my math teacher after graduating from college. Geometry became easier for me. I did not have to struggle seeing the relationships between shapes, lines and angles. I ended the geometry class with a solid A. Because I was so used to getting A’s, I never thought about how I became better at it, till I visited the teacher ten years later.
A Happy Reunion and Revelation
At the teacher’s dining table, she asked me if I still remembered the art club. I said yes. She then told me the reason she initiated the art club was to help her students get used to visualizing geometry shapes in their heads. She told me she noticed several students were struggling with geometry, and she believed it was not due to math ability. Instead, it was because our brains were not used to thinking in images, especially scaled images. Having taken art training herself, she knew the early stage of life drawing is to draw shapes. She thought that was just what we needed for geometry.
I was so surprised that she took such a unique approach to help us. It definitely worked. As we are all talking about STEAM (Science Technology Engineer Art Math) and why school should keep art class, my personal experience tells me art should be an integral part of school education.
The lesson I learned from my teacher influenced me in many ways, not just in self-realization and self-improvement, but also in parenting. I learned all different skills are inter-connected. When a child or a co-worker or myself is facing difficulties finishing a task, we should step back to really diagnose the root cause, and help the individual working on the cause, like leveraging art in improving math performance. Pushing on the task itself will just add frustration. In my case, pushing me on more geometry practice without addressing visual thinking skills would not help me do better in math tests.
Do you have a favorite teacher? If you can pick just one, what is the most memorable lesson you learned from your teachers? October 5 is World Teachers Day. It is a day for all of us to celebrate teachers. We have so many teachers throughout our lives, from preschool, kindergarten, to elementary school, … all the way through college. I deeply appreciate my teachers. Thinking back, I not only learned academic knowledge, but also important life skills from teachers.
Thanks to SMART, I got this opportunity to tell a teacher’s story. Even if you have not heard of the company, you probably know some of their products. SMART has an array of products supporting teachers and making teachers’ lives easier, such as interactive display and learning software. You can learn more of those interesting products on SMART website.
Do you have a teacher’s story you’d like to tell? For more inspirations about World Teachers Day, visit and leave a comment on SMART EDBLOG.
SMART Technologies helps great teachers get outstanding results by taking learning from passive listening to active collaboration. Learn how SMART software helps turn lessons into learning experiences at education.smarttech.com.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SMART . The opinions and text are all mine.