A Challenge in Space: The Art of Math Challenge at the Barnes Foundation

A Challenge in Space: The Art of Math Challenge at the Barnes Foundation

In schools across the greater Philadelphia area, math teachers, art teachers, and K–12 students are gearing up for the Barnes Foundation’s second annual Art of Math Challenge. Using math and design strategies, student groups are hard at work creating three-dimensional models of paintings in the Barnes collection. Hosted by the Barnes in partnership with the Math Forum, part of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, this competition culminates at the STEAM Fair taking place at the Barnes on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Student submissions will be displayed in the Annenberg Court alongside activities and demonstrations by local STEAM artists and professionals. We welcome all guests to come support our student designers and experience how we combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) in all areas of life.

In preparation for the Art of Math Challenge, educators from the Barnes Foundation and the Math Forum are working with teachers from participating schools to explore the connections between math and art. First, Annie and Max from the Math Forum took the Art of Math Challenge across the country to the Math On-a-Stick booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Families visiting the fair were challenged to notice and wonder about two images from the Barnes collection, and then to recreate those images to scale using either silhouette cutouts or superhero action figures and LEGO bricks. Families also flipped through photo books and compared the paintings to LEGO dioramas made by Max and Annie. They asked themselves, “What’s the same? What’s different?”

Math Forum

Equipped with valuable insight from the Math On-a-Stick experience, Math Forum then hosted an evening workshop for Philadelphia-area teachers. During the workshop, the teachers engaged in the same activities as the fairgoers and explored the mathematical and artistic concepts that arise from playing with 2D and 3D scale model making. Participants grappled with ideas of scale, area, volume, relative position, lighting, framing, perspective, angle, and more—and they brought these ideas back to their classrooms. Over the last several months, their students have been thinking about how artists create the illusion of space in painting using math, then solving the puzzle of recreating the scene in three dimensions. Final projects will be judged on March 5 by educators from the Math Forum and the Barnes, where we hope you’ll join us to learn together at the STEAM Fair.

The Barnes Foundation also offers The Art of Looking, a free outreach program exploring the connections between math, science, and art, to 5th- and 6th-grade students in the School District of Philadelphia. Registration for our exciting educational programs for K–12 students is now open; e-mail education@barnesfoundation.org for information about participating. 

Support for the Art of Looking is provided by the Connelly Foundation.