8 reasons why we should combine art + math

From better comprehension to higher U.S. math rankings, here are compelling reasons for merging these two disciplines

4. Increased inspiration. Combining math and art increases creativity among those who are strong in math and strong in art. According to Jim Crowley, executive director of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), mathematicians get insight into the mathematical structures they create by visualizing objects. Conversely, he says geometry can inspire art, as is evident in beautiful sculptures inspired by geometric objects, such as in the work of American sculptor Helamon Ferguson.

5. Technological appreciation. Viewing the world through a combined math-and-art lens provides students with unprecedented insights. Take computers, for example. SIAM’s Crowley explains that color images produced by computer simulation (which involves math) not only help to understand phenomena, but also can be considered art because of their beauty and power to inspire. He cites the visualization by Konrad Polthier and Konstantin Poelke, which received an award from the National Science Foundation. Is it mathematics? Is it art? Many such visualizations are both, producing objects of beauty while lending real insight into the mathematics underlying the various phenomena, says Crowley.

6. Brain-building. Math and art skills draw from the same part of the brain, so strengthening one’s art abilities positively affects skills related to math. The two go hand in hand and together cause the mind to think in new and unexpected ways.

7. Mind-stimulating. Because art is known to evoke emotion, the integration of the two subjects can cause students to be more open-minded about math concepts, and more creative when solving mathematical problems.

8. Improved U.S. math rankings. A December 2016 international math quiz by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that U.S. high school students lag behind their global peers in math, ranking 40th in math out of 72 countries. The U.S. score was down 17 points from 2009 and 20 points below the average of others taking the quiz, which saw Singapore come out on top, followed by Japan, Estonia, Finland, and Canada. Only six percent of the 15-year-old U.S. students who took the international math test had scores in the highest proficiency range; 29 percent did not meet baseline proficiency. It’s time to get creative with solutions, and interconnecting the two disciplines in a lighthearted way will go a long way in making U.S. students more competitive on a global scale.

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