Art, Education and Math–What’s the Connection?

maple

Stickyness.

In addition to being an artist I am a math teacher. I often struggle with deciding whether I am more of an artist or more of a math teacher, but at the moment I am surrendering the struggle to explore areas where the two overlap.

I was working with a tutoring student last year who was having a hard time memorizing vocabulary words on flashcards. She was getting frustrated and she said to me, “The words go in but then they fall right out–they’re just not sticking.” Immediately I thought of Malcolm Gladwell’s book on social trends, The Tipping Point, where he explores the importance of stickyness in making a message memorable. I also thought of a class I took called Teaching to the Adolescent Brain where I learned that for information to be stored in deep memory it has to pass through the region of the brain called the amygdala–also the processing point of emotion and basic fight or flight instincts. These two different ideas combined and I realized that my job as a teacher is to help make information “sticky.”

There are many ways to do this–some better than others. And different sticking techniques will work for different people. I happen to be a very visual person, so color is one of my favorites. After learning a little about Goethean color theory at a summer class on Anthroposophy and Art, I also believe that color carries archetypal emotional content and meaning. Blue is peaceful, red is dynamic, yellow is uplifting. My student tried color coding the vocabulary words to correspond with the part of speech (blue for nouns, red for verbs and green for adjectives.) It takes more work to make information sticky (especially if it’s a topic you don’t particularly care for), but a little effort in the right direction will go a long way.

I’ll explore more in subsequent posts–meanwhile I invite you to ponder: What makes information sticky for you?

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