Storytelling in Math and Art

By |2021-05-24T09:48:09-07:00June 15th, 2021|

Sparkchasers Episode 40 | Show Notes

Storytelling in Math and Art with Ruth Byrne

Be honest: when you think about math, do you have the urge to suddenly shrink and move to the back of the room? Well, art educator Ruth Byrne wants to change that.

Art Educator for 14 years and Math Nerd for life, Ruth Byrne uses concrete manipulatives in her early primary art classes to increase student’s visual vocabulary and spatial sense, and to facilitate storytelling in art. After a hiatus from formal education, her recent studies include Digital Storytelling and Visible Thinking at the National Gallery Teacher Institute and Math Education with NJCTL. She continually draws inspiration from podcasts and people alike.

In today’s episode, you’ll hear Ruth explain how her passion project for Froebel’s Gifts has truly made the biggest impact on her teaching this year.  This is also a great preview of her upcoming 2021 Summer Arts Integration and STEAM conference session. Trust me, you’re going to love it. Here’s a few big takeaways I had from our chat together:

What Are Froebel’s Gifts?

As Ruth explains it, Froebel’s Gifts are educational play materials originally designed by Friedrich Fröbel for the first Kindergarten class. Specifically, these materials were designed for teaching young children to talk about and connect with math. While the Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies are similarly built around play, these tools and manipulatives are more central to teaching math, rather than teaching on the whole. In the episode, Ruth shares how she’s using these tools to help teach everything from counting to sewing to mandalas. Many famous architects were influenced by these Gifts, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller.

All Ages Need Hands-On Learning

Another big takeaway from this episode is the fact that all students – no matter their age – can benefit from hands-on learning tools. Even the older students in middle and high school can use visual tools to understand difficult math concepts. And, when looking at the two types of Froebel’s Gifts, older students often enjoy the Works of Beauty as a way to explore puzzles and abstract thinking in a more visual way.

Creativity from a Pressure Cooker

Ruth is teaching art on a cart this year. And while the situation is far from ideal, she shares how she has used the experience as a way to more fully understand and appreciate the natural connections between math and art education. She also comments that creativity can often bubble over as a result of being in a pressure cooker. And this year certain qualifies in terms of pressure!

Show Notes

Here’s a list of the resources and tools mentioned in this episode:

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