Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Math & Art & Giant Cake!

Before school let out I was able to squeak in projects with two of the teachers at a local elementary school. I had tons of fun doing both projects! Here's the first...

The first was with Mrs. Nagy and her fourth grade class. We made 3D food sculptures inspired by the work of Claes Oldenburg. My original project idea appears here. But with this class, I limited the children to creating a slice of cake or pie so that we could study the math concepts associated with those shapes.
Mmmm...blueberry swirl cake!

I know, I know, math and art together? SIGH....isn't that going to be a bit, ahem, boring? Not at all! Here's how it's done...

I started with MY favorite part: the ART. I gave a short presentation on the work of Oldenburg and showed some examples of his sculptures.

Then, we focused on my other favorite part of this lesson: the FOOD part. We looked at some yummy examples of Oldenburg's sculptures such as the big soft sculpture of chocolate cake. These portions of the presentation allowed me to talk about art concepts such as sculpture, soft sculpture, form, scale, surface and design. We also discussed placement of art in certain environments.

Then we got down to the MATH portion of the exercise. Don't worry, it's a "piece of cake" to create a piece of cake (come on, I HAD too!)! We created our 3D cakes from a 2D surface: a piece of paper. Our cakes are made from two equilateral triangles and have three square sides. This solid form is called a triangular prism. I brought in some other solids that the children would easily know for comarison: a pyramid, a sphere, a cone, a cube and a rectangular prism.

I had the students begin the construction of their pieces of cake by creating two identical equilateral triangles (one for the top of the cake and one for the bottom). Ours are 9" on each side. The children then figured out how big the sides of the cake needed to be. That led them to create three 9" squares (one for each side of the cake slice). This is where the discussion of height, width and depth can come in.

The children then attached the pieces together using staplers to make "seams" and stuffed their sculptures with crumpled newspaper before sealing the solids up (more info about this can be found in my earlier, related post).

WHEW! Cake slice made! Then, the children happily "decorated" their cakes using tempera paints. It was lovely to see al of the awesome cakes they made: chocolate tortes, red velvet, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting--YUM!

If your group is very comfortable with these math concepts (as was this group), you can try your hand at making a slice of pie. Make the top and bottom equilateral triangles (two 9" equilateral triangles were used by these students), but reduce the height of the sides of the sculptures (ours were 4.5" x 9") because pie is generally not as tall as cake. Proceed as above to create the solid and stuff the sculpture and decorate it accordingly. These students created chocolate cream pie, key lime pie and cherry pie.

This is a wonderful exercise illustrating all sorts of math concepts in an easy-to-understand and enjoyable way. It really does combine art and math perfectly and it's FUN! I hope you are able to try it with your kiddos!
Cherry and blueberry pie--great lattice tops!
(Sorry the photo is blurry, but you get the idea!)

Chocolate torte and black forest pie!

Key lime pie with whipped cream on top! YUM!

1 comment:

  1. Great job! I always tell my students that you can't separate math from art. You could have never taught that lesson without the geometry and perhaps measuring, etc. Kiddos should understand that the art process is very much problem solving.


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