Hanging from a display rack at the Truman High School annual student art show in Bristol Township is a collection of decorative wind chimes—a ceramics project from the students in Diane Wilkin's art class. What separates this from other similar projects is not so much the outcome as the process. Working with circles and cylinders and circumferences, Ms Wilkin's students soon find that math is a frequent partner to art.
A Fine Arts teacher at Truman for the last 11 years, Diane comes to the teaching profession after a career as a medical photographer. "[In college] I studied architecture for three years, and took every art class I could find. I came out with a degree in photography and printmaking, and went back later for the education courses. I still do printmaking. I exhibit at the Rittenhouse Square Fine Arts Annual in September, and have been on their board for 10 years now."
It wasn't long after entering the classroom, however, that Diane and her colleagues recognized a problem: "Students couldn't measure with a ruler! It's not that they were never taught—though by the time they got to the high school, we had to re-teach it. Then, when the school set initiatives to incorporate math and reading into the curriculum, my way of doing that was to come up with projects where you actually used the math." For the wind chimes, "they needed to know the circumference of a circle so that the wrap-around piece would fit the top. We tried to work this so that the students did some discovery [of the math concepts] on their own."
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