If you’ve listened to the news lately, you’ve probably heard of STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. This is being incorporated into classroom curriculum and after school programs around the world. Add an ‘A’ for Art to this acronym and you get STEAM. STEAM is a movement that recognizes the importance of creativity and innovation in these fields.

At School on Wheels, we added an ‘r’ to Math to create a program called MartH. MartH uses curriculum-based projects involving art to support math skills being taught in the classroom. The program is currently available to 4th grade students experiencing homelessness at Washington Irving School 14 during their lunchtime on Wednesday afternoons. Our projects review concepts including angles, lines, linear measurement, fractions, multiplication, symmetry, area and perimeter. We study artists, paint, draw and create 3-D structures – we’ve even worked with needles and thread to produce fiber art and have used candy corn as a medium to make repeating equilateral triangles.

Student art based on Mondrain's workGroup shot of all student art

For a recent project, we studied the artist Piet Mondrian whose work includes many paintings that include right angles and primary colors. Using what they learned, students then created right, acute and obtuse angles on a canvas using tape, and painted the exposed areas with primary colors. The kids added designs to their work in the form of points, angles, parallel and perpendicular lines.

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In another project, the kids worked together to design a group piece using flat colored paper that fit together forming repeated straight lines that create a curve called a hyperbolic paraboloid. We studied pictures of the Sydney Opera house in Australia that incorporates these curves for its roof. The Pringles chip is also molded in this shape, and we had fun snacking on hyperbolic paraboloids.

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Hopefully, you can see by these examples that I try to make these lessons both fun and educational. Even though the projects involve math, which tends to have right and wrong answers, we find in art that there are multiple solutions to projects. We can use rules in math to create an infinite number of designs and art to generate new ways of looking at things. I am truly passionate about art and value creative ideas and expression. I also believe, as many in the STEAM movement do, that creativity is a vital part of achieving success in any field. I hope that, by participating in the MartH program, the kids I work with are able to find and value creativity in themselves.

Want to learn more about our curriculum-based programs like MartH? Click here!