Week 1: King Middle School


Today (Jan 23) is the first day for our Math-Art project and we are starting off at King Middle School in Mr. Dejean’s 7th grade math class.  It was very exciting to finally be in the classroom!  The students were very engaged and focused and had a lot to say about the information that we were giving them.  Today was a Math Day, so Risa, our math representative from Lawrence Hall of Science, introduced the math vocabulary and concepts which will be our focus for the math portion.

We started out thinking about how art and math can be related, with this image from Kandinsky.

After presenting the image, Risa asked the students to write down math and art words that come to mind when looking at the painting.  The class discussed their answers with partners and then Risa moved into a focus on triangles and similar triangles, based off the large isosceles triangle in Kandinsky’s painting.  The math vocabulary of ratio and similar were focused on as well as complementary angles and other vocab.

Once the vocab was discussed, we moved onto teaching the students about dilation-the process of changing the size of a shape while keeping the same ratio so that the shapes are similar.  We introduced compasses for the students to use as a way of measuring sizes and asked them to dilate a triangle to three times the original size.

To wrap up each period, Risa ended with some “Magic or Math?” questions to reemphasize the importance of order of operations in math and following instructions in a specific order- a concept that will be connected to the art portion.

Here is an example:

1. Choose a number from 2 – 9, inclusive
2. Multiply that number by 10
3. Subtract your original number
4. State one of your two digits

To the surprise of the students, after they finished the instructions, Risa and Victoria were able to guess the other digit of their final number.  For example, if a student stated one of the digits was a 7, Risa and Victoria could guess the other digit to be 2.

The trick is that the two digits will always add up to nine.  The students multiply their original number by 10 and then take away one of those numbers by subtracting, leaving them with 9 times their original number.  The students LOVED the magic behind the math and one student even asked Victoria if she was a wizard!

Overall, the first day was realllly awesome and I already can’t wait to go back on Wednesday for the first art day!


Day 2 for me at King (Jan 25) was very exciting and a little bit more tiring than my first- we met with all four periods today!  It was the first time introducing the Art portion of the project with Victoria Scott, our lovely Kala artist.  We started each period out with some practice warm-up drawings to introduce the students to the materials we gave them and to have them get used to following instruction sets to make drawings.

We had the students split their paper into four equal parts.  In the first section, the students were to draw freehand diagonal lines in a color of their choice.  The second box was filled with wavy intersecting horizontal and vertical lines.  The students than colored in 5 of the shapes they created with the intersecting lines.  In the third box, the students randomly made 20 points and then connected them in whatever they chose.  In the last box, the students made one long line made up of alternating straight and wavy lines.

The students were mostly skeptical at first and had some difficulty dividing the paper up.  But, as we moved along through the exercises all of the students became more and more creative and enthusiastic with their own drawings.

One question that continuously came up was, “Am I doing this right?” or a variation of this question (Can I do this? Yes.  How should I do this?  It’s up to you.).  We ended up writing on the board “Yes! You are doing it right,” to reinforce that the students can and need to make decisions that will affect their drawings- decisions that artists make all the time in making their art.  Once the students gained the confidence of making their own decisions with their drawings, we began seeing some beautiful designs and color combinations, and creative interpretations.

After the warm up exercises, we ended with an art history lesson that related to the drawings the students had just finished.  Victoria discussed the Constructivist, Conceptual, and Digital Movement and introduced the students to beautiful and colorful images to give the students an idea of how other artists have worked using similar instruction sets.  She then posed the question, “Are there rules to art?” which made the students think.  Many believed that there were no rules to art.  Victoria then ended the period by answering that many artists make up rules and instructions in order to make it easier to approach their art, which ties into the large drawing we will be making tomorrow and Friday using an instruction set that Victoria created.


We had our last official day with King Middle School yesterday (Jan 27) and it ended on a pretty high note.  Victoria started out the period with a composition instruction set to demonstrate some techniques that artists use to make interesting looking art.  The four compositional techniques we introduced were symmetry, asymmetry, radial symmetry, and the rule of thirds.  Out of all of these techniques, radial symmetry was the only time the students were given an instruction to put an object in the center of their panel.  This was emphasized by the rule of thirds which says that if a drawing is split into the ninths (a tic-tac-toe grid) the majority of the elements or objects in a piece should be on the outer parts and not the center.  This allows for more movement in the viewer’s eye.

After this exercise, we moved on to a larger drawing with a longer, more complicated instruction set.  This instruction set included the math (such as dilation and similar triangles) and art concepts (composition and line) that we introduced over the week.  The students did a great job with the drawings and made some amazing pieces with great designs, colors, and compositions. It was exciting to see the growth in the students from the beginning of the week to the end.  Some transformations that I appreciated most included:

  • The students asked almost no questions about their own artistic decisions (such as color combinations and if they were doing it right).  This was a HUGE change from the first art day on wednesday.  I even overheard students defending their decisions when other students asked about them- awesome!
  • The majority of the students understood the dilation once we gave a little guidance.
  • Mr. Dejean told us that some of the students who almost never participate in normal math class participated more in this week than he’s seen before. (Hopefully, their behavior will be more positive about math in the future!)
One final hope that we are looking in to is if we can return in the future to have a capstone experience with the classes to discuss their time over this past week.  We are also trying to look into the best way to document the experience by either having the drawings in a book, an animation, an installation, or some sort of display.
Overall, it was great being able to see each students working within the instruction sets and adding in so much of their personal creativity.  It was a very rewarding way to end the week.


Today ( Jan 24) was my first day at King Middle School; I was only able to attend one math session but it was still a lot of fun!

I did not know what to expect before class started; I didn’t know whether the students will enjoy the activities designed for them and if they will accept a class taught by “outsiders”. This feeling eased when Victoria showed me portfolios created by Monday’s classes.  With simple use of lines and circles, the 7th graders produced very creative patterns and pictures!

The rundown of the class was the same as yesterday’s, beginning with comments on Kandinsky’s Komposition 8. Just by reading the student’s response to the picture, I realized they do have a deep understanding of geometry and are very creative indeed. While most were able to write down “triangle” and “lines” as we expected, some students even came up with words like “sun” and “mountain”!

The class was then given time to use compasses to create circles on their portfolios. Most of the class had trouble at first, but after some practicing, they finally got the hold of effectively using compasses, which proved to be useful in the exercises that follow.

We ran out of time in the end and did not get to go through all the “Math or Magic” problems, but the idea of the importance of following instructions was still conveyed by Risa. This will become a point of improvement for future workshops. Overall, I think the students did find the class interesting, and we are all looking forward to starting the art-focused workshop tomorrow!


My second day at King was January 26. It was my first art class with the students. Similar to Pascal’s class on Wednesday, Victoria kicked off by having the students warm up to drawing and to following instructions. We then moved on to completing the real instruction set. At first, a lot of students were hesitant to freely create whist using the instruction set; they kept checking with us if they are doing the right thing or not. As Pascal mentioned, there is no right or wrong, as in art and in some applications, math as well.

One thing I noticed was that a lot of students were not familiar with the concepts of “diameter” and “radius” when using a compass. Many of them confused the length measured using a compass as the diameter of the circle. Some also needed help with the dilation process, but all of them succeeded in creating unique, personalized drawings in the end.

We ended the lesson by having the students line up and taking photos of their individual drawings. Even if some students were not too enthusiastic about the exercises in class, all of them were very proud to showcase their artwork. I hope that after this class, they not only learned some basic art and math concepts but also be able to take away the pride and feeling of accomplishment from expressing their own creativity. For me, I found it very fulfilling to hear a student say at the end of the day “I hope we did this more in class!”.


I attended Thursday’s morning session, and the afternoon session with Gloria!  Pascal’s idea to write “Yes!  You are doing at right!” proved very helpful; each time the students would raise concerns about their methods, we would simply point to the whiteboard and say “Remember Pascal!”

Indeed the students did struggle with the dilation method, but once they grasped the concept, they were able to perform multiple dilations.  Here’s an example of the dilation method we used:


Another step that the students had the most questions about was the grid-making; a lot of students made their parallel family-member lines far apart, so they were disappointed when they could not connect them with perpendicular lines, thus forming a grid.  More direction on this step may help, but perhaps it is good for them to realize that things don’t always work out exactly how they had in mind, which occurs in art all too often!

I think it’s safe to say that we had a great week at King Middle School, and we’re looking forward to the next!


One Comment on “Week 1: King Middle School”

  1. […] by this,  Victoria and I (Pascal) made our way back to Mr. Dejean’s 7th grade class (our first class!) at King Middle School to give closure for the project and ourselves.   The three of us decided […]

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