Brianne Gidcumb | March 2016

The Art of Mathematical Thinking

Mathematical thinking has more in common with the arts than you might think. The key to STEAM in the classroom is capitalizing on the commonalities and intersections between science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts, and using the arts as a catalyst to explore habits and processes of thinking in these contents.

Today, I’m sharing with you a FREE download to help you plan for alignments between math and the arts by finding common processes and practices in these contents.  We do even more of this in our new Designed to STEAM Online Course!

First, let’s explore the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Thinking and Practice and the Artistic Habits of Mind.

Standards for Mathematical Practice: The Art of Mathematical Thinking

One of the key shifts in Common Core Mathematics is the presence of the Standards for Mathematical Practice. These standards promote important “processes and proficiencies” in math students. The idea behind these mathematical thinking and practices, and behind Common Core in general, is to give students the tools they need to solve problems and to become lifelong, independent learners. These skills are developed throughout a student’s math education throughout the years. The Standards for Mathematical Practice are as follows:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Artistic Habits of Mind

The Artistic Habits of Mind are eight disciplined habits that the arts purposefully foster. These were developed based on  findings from research conducted through Project Zero of Harvard University. The idea is similar to that behind the Standards for Mathematical Practice: that students in the arts should develop habits and practices that will ensure success in artistic pursuits through the creative process. The Artistic Habits of Mind are as follows:

  1. Develop craft.
  2. Engage and persist.
  3. Envision.
  4. Express.
  5. Observe.
  6. Reflect.
  7. Stretch and explore.
  8. Understand art world.

Making Connections

Download the Math Practices vs. Habits of Mind handout and take a look at these two sets of standards. In this resource, you’ll find the practices and habits side-by-side in sequence on page one. Look and find natural alignments between the Math Practices and Artistic Habits- where do you see common language, common processes?

The Art of Mathematical Thinking, Standard For Mathematical Practice

Let’s do a remix!

On page two of the download, you’ll find the Artistic Habits remixed to align with the Standards for Mathematical Practice more effectively. There is more than one way to align these practices and habits, so this might be a valuable exercise for you to engage in on your own or with your team to begin finding natural process-based connections and alignments, but this is a great place to begin looking for natural connections between math and the arts!

The Art of Mathematical Thinking, Standard For Mathematical Practice

What connections do you see? Comment below!

DOWNLOAD Math Practices vs. Habits of Mind

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: