Saturday, 7 February 2015

what does 100 look like?

I admit it.

I’m an artist, and I will use art to teach almost anything.

Case in point — A few years ago, I used Damien Hirst’s spot paintings to explore the concept of 100 with my Grade Ones. Love them or hate them, the spot paintings are full of math.

My objectives were multiple. First of all, I wanted to work on the concept that 100 is ten groups of ten; and expanding on that, to find answers to the question — what does 100 look like? And thirdly, I wanted to do some interesting estimating. But you could also use the spot paintings to introduce or discuss multiplication, arrays, square numbers, and some aspects of basic geometry (with an older grade.)

Here is my lesson plan. I have a poster of Hirst’s painting Ergocalciferol (2007) which is useful, but the painting also appears in this linked slide show (slides 10 through 14). Either way, the art becomes the provocation for wondering and learning about number.

Damien Hirst Math

Show kids some of Damien Hirst's spot paintings. Use images from the Damien Hirst website or the slide show I have linked above.

Damien Hirst. Ergocalciferol. House paint on canvas. 2007.

Ask them to guess how many spots are in Ergocalciferol. Are there more than 100? (There are 425, but don’t tell them that yet.)

Introduce or review the concept of estimation as an informed guess. Hand out colour copies of all or part of Ergocalciferol, or — in the interest of honouring copyright — polka-dotted wrapping paper. Have the kids circle and cut out ten contiguous dots (in any shape they want). Compare the tens, which ones are the same? Which ones are different? Are they all equal in quantity/number? How do we know? (counting by ones or twos or fives) Compare their tens to the painting. How many of them do they think would fit into it?

Give them the same handouts again, but ask them to cut out 100 dots. They may have to work together with a friend or friends. Compare the different shapes of 100. Compare them to the painting.

Answer the question: are there more than 100 dots? How many hundreds do they think?

Hand out another copy of the painting if necessary. Have kids cut out ten straight lines of ten. Glue them together onto a white piece of paper and cut closely around the pieces they have glued on, so that they have a 10 x 10 grid of dots. Compare these to the painting. Now can they tell (or guess) how many hundreds there are in the painting? Is it easier or harder to count when the dots are in lines/grids?

Note: This whole lesson could also be done using bingo dabbers and having the kids make their own tens and hundreds.

Extend the Lesson

Make their own spot paintings:

  • Use Smarties or M&Ms and glue them onto paper with white glue or royal icing. 
  • Or get a bunch of paint chips and a circular hole punch (1” or less) and cut out spots. Challenge kids to create compositions of 100 dots without repeating the same colour.

Play a spot painting as a rhythm on drums or other percussion instruments. Talk with the kids about which colours look like strong/loud beats, and which look like quiet beats. Have them “read” a line of a Damien Hirst spot painting and play the rhythm of it on their drums together.

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