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Art + maths = magical connections for teachers and learners

Although maths and art seem worlds apart, they are more connected than you think.

Nature is full of mathematically-precise patterns – just think of a snowflake or a zebra’s pelt – while architecture and fashion rely on mathematics in their designs.

Members of the Department of Basic Education, along with principals, teachers and learners from eight schools in the Somerset East and Bedford area experienced the maths-art connection first-hand during a workshop run by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre, which showed participants how to use open-sourced maths software called GeoGebra, to develop sculptures of giant molecules, soccer balls and igloo-like domes.

“The workshop gave the 40 participants the opportunity to learn mathematics through art and do art through mathematics”, said Dr Phil Collett, project leader at GMMDC, which hosts one of GeoGebra’s 187 global institutes.

“GeoGebra is already used in maths and science classrooms across the world to help teachers and pupils visualise and experiment with geometry, algebra, tables and so on. Linking GeoGebra with art adds a very practical, real-world dimension.”

The workshop tied neatly into the new global shift towards STEAM education, the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, and a variation on the better-known STEM education.

The workshop was run to prepare participants for 2018, when hundreds of learners in the area (who are attending GMMDC’s mathematics and science incubation programme) will be exposed to STEAM activities, using a technology-linked teaching and learning approach – which includes the use of GeoGebra – to boost their knowledge and progress in maths and science.

These learners were selected from four schools in Somerset East and four in and around Bedford to attend the incubation programme, which is sponsored in that area by the Cookhouse Wind Farm Trust Initiative, a 20-year project geared towards building up critical skills for the job market in the region.  

ON THE BALL … This team of Somerset East and Bedford maths teachers (from left) Ernest Boakye, Ayanda Nyatela, Gideon Williams, Nozekelo Nzuta, Neil Bennett and TB Kula were the first to complete their soccer ball sculpture.

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