Sunday, December 18, 2011

Math and Art: Word Problems for the Visual Learner

My math education did not go well at all. When, in 3rd grade, we learned "times tables", I had such problems that Miss Finch, a first-year teacher, called my parents in to let them know they had better think of technical school for me rather than college. While calling a 9-year-old an intellectual loser is a bit presumptuous, Miss Finch had me dead to rights on my math skills.

Miss Finch's Class Photo
 I would also guess that I have thought of Miss Finch over the last [you figure it out] number of years about a bazillion times more than she has ever thought of me. It's time to rid myself of the resentment at last.

While I'll go on to say that not only did I finish college, I did so in 4 years, one summer, and 8 majors. In addition, I went on to get a Masters in Fine Arts in Photography. You wondered when I'd bring in the art, didn't you? So here's the deal, while math scares me and those who know me who no longer ask me to add numbers, I do use math - complicated algorithms - on a daily basis. Most of my art takes place on the computer in a program called Photoshop. There I can create images, manipulate them, assemble photomontages, and ready photos for printing on textiles.

I will confess to not knowing one single complicated algorithm, but the point is, I can use them to my advantage - take that Miss Finch. I also know that I can ask the scientists with whom I work to draw a simple flowchart or diagram to clarify their research for me in order to better edit it.

Where is this all going? Let's call it a short essay on recognizing that skills of any type range along a spectrum and it's important to know how you learn as well as how to explain what you know to others. I'm getting ready to impart some WWII art/theatre/history knowledge to some really smart middle-schoolers and I need to remember that some of them will be good in math and some in art, and that all of them will most certainly teach me something.

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