Unleashing Creativity through Math and Art

Upper School math students design original art by coding with linear equations, inequalities in PixelMath.

Who knew that mathematical equations could be so colorful?

This week, Upper School Algebra II classes worked with PixelMath to program multi-colored square designs using concepts of linear equations, inequalities, and systems. The project occurred in advance of Steward’s first Visiting Innovator event of the 2016-17 school year on Monday, November 7: Stanford professor, author, and noted TED speaker Jo Boaler will speak to the Steward community about growing students’ enthusiasm and success in math education.

In 2013, Steward received a Partners in the Arts grant from the University of Richmond to be used to bring unique opportunities to campus that help incorporate math and art concepts into the curriculum. PixelMath lead developer and University of Washington professor Steve Tanimoto was brought to Steward as a visiting innovator that spring. Upper School math teacher Jennifer Maitland worked with Dr. Tanimoto to develop a lesson plan incorporating PixelMath for her classes.

“I got excited when I realized you could use the programming with linear equations, inequalities, and their systems, which is what I teach in my algebra classes,” Mrs. Maitland said. “[Visual Arts Department Chair] Rugene Paulette actually pointed out to me that the square designs produced by PixelMath are similar to the work of [modern artist] Frank Stella, so I thought it would a great opportunity to make a cross-curricular connection with students.”

Mrs. Maitland has done the project in her classes each year since Dr. Tanimoto’s visit. After she teaches students how to use the program’s color coding, they write their own mathematical functions using conditional statements that change the color of the images. Students are challenged to design one piece with slope art, one piece with linear inequalities, and one piece in the shape of a diamond, which they must create by manipulating the slope intercept form of an equation (y = mx+b).

“It’s really cool to be able to see the results of our work on something more engaging than a piece of graph paper,” tenth-grade Algebra II student Evelyn Dumeer said. “I love seeing the effects of changing the code and how we can make things color coordinated.”

Mrs. Maitland hopes that Upper School Photography teacher John Alley’s classes can turn the art into a collage that can be printed and hung around campus, which has been done in previous years.

“There are a lot of connections between math and art that students don’t realize,” she said. “Students can get bored with the calculations of math and the systematic ways of solving problems. This project gives them a more creative outlet on how they can apply these skills and concepts they’ve learned.”


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- Dan and Kathi Campbell, Parents of Abbie ’19, Emma ’17, and Ben ’14

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- Grace Henderson ’10

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Steward provides Andrew with a nurturing environment which fosters his individualism, develops exemplary character traits, and continuously provides him with creative learning experiences. Consequently, Andrew ‘loves’ school and anticipates each day with joy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
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- Ron Coles, Father of Trace Coles ’19 and Grade 5 Teacher

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- Bowen Chen ’15


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