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Teaching Math through Art Review by Deborah Burt

Sharon Jeffus
Visual Manna
PO Box 553
Salem, MO 65560

Teaching Math through Art was designed to be used by artistically inclined students as a supplement to a regular math textbook. Geared for students in grades 3 through 8, Teaching Math through Art seeks to point out the connections between math and real life. Ms. Jeffus has compiled visual and kinesthetic activities on 22 mathematical topics because she believes children learn more by seeing and doing than they do by simply filling out workbook pages.

Teaching Math through Art covers measurement (including length, area, and volume), mathematical systems (including real numbers, whole numbers, integers, and fractions), geometry, telling time, money, and number theory (including primes, factors, and multiples). Because the text is designed to supplement a math textbook, parents or students may look through the Table of Contents and go directly to any topic of interest.

Ms. Jeffus points out that master artists have used mathematical principals for centuries. Much of the book centers on how math is useful or identifiable in art. For example, Teaching Math through Art has activities to help the student learn fractions by drawing the face in proportion, recognize and understand the Fibonacci Sequence by looking for it in famous paintings, and learn about parallel lines by observing them in artwork and learning to draw them himself from a one-point perspective. But Teaching Math through Art is not limited to using art to teach math; it also uses engineering, cooking, architecture, and other real-life connections to teach or reinforce concepts. Among other ideas, Ms. Jeffus suggests designing your own clock face to practice telling time, baking an angel food cake to understand fractions, learning about translations by looking for patterns on sports balls, and measuring household items with a ruler.

Teaching Math through Art is full of great illustrations and photos as well as high-quality reproductions of famous artwork. Although the printing is black and white, the reproductions are surprisingly crisp, clean, and pleasant to behold. Ms. Jeffus has also sprinkled throughout the text website suggestions to help the student further pursue various mathematical concepts. These websites are well chosen and provide even more opportunities for math practice from various approaches. Teaching Math through Art can be easily modified for different ages.

Not every single entry in the book appealed to our family, and I had trouble understanding a few of the explanations or instructions. But because the book is set up with as a smorgasbord, it was easy to pick and choose what we needed. In fact, this book lends itself to being a servant to the homeschooling family; it will not try to master you!

Unschoolers, art-minded students, and kinesthetic learners would love this book. Art-minded parents would probably also love to play around with art a bit in their math lessons. Traditional textbook homeschoolers may find themselves dismayed by the somewhat cluttered organization of random topics. However, I think Teaching Math through Art will be especially helpful to any student who is "stuck" on a particular topic. Sometimes simply trying a different approach to a mathematical concept will help a child understand it better.

Teaching Math through Art has been and will continue to be a wonderful addition to our homeschool. Because the text covers a wide range of mathematical concepts, I'm certain we will turn to this book several times over the next few years for hands-on help with math. Periodically, I like to do hands-on activities with the children to make certain they understand the "why" of math and not just the "how." This book provides hours of activities to help us do just that.

Product review by Deborah Burt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2009