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Geometry and Op Art

When Evelyn Brewer’s students began studying geometry, they discovered something surprising. They actually understood what they were learning! In her article, "Geometry and Op Art," Brewer explains how she used a form of abstract art called op art to teach her third-graders geometry. Op art is an art form that uses geometric shapes, lines, and brilliant colors to create a dazzling design.

Brewer uses this op art in her classroom to teach students the basic concepts of geometry. Because op art is created through geometrical shapes and lines, it provides a good basis for the study of geometry. Students begin by learning about different types of lines. Once they have done that, they move onto learning about shapes. After a foundation has been laid, students dive into creating "Op Art Geometry." This project allows each student to create their own op art masterpiece and put together a slide show which explains their creation. Students use Kid Pix 2 to show step-by-step how their work of art was created, and they record a narrative of slide show, using geometrical language and ideas to explain what they did in each slide.

This is a great article. It is well-written, and it explains the project well. It is easy to understand exactly what Brewer did with her students. The ideas are appropriate for a third-grade classroom, and students would be very interested in this project. The concepts are fun and exciting to teachers and students alike. We like the way Brewer came up with an interesting way to teach geometry to students. All too often, geometry is not taught to be fun, and this project shows that it can be. Furthermore, the ideas in the article are in alignment with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) Standards. Mainly, it addresses the concepts of geometry and spatial sense, connections, and communication. In addition to learning about geometry, students connect math with art, which shows them that math is not just in a textbook. Also, students had to narrate their slide show, which fostered their communication skills.

We have not seen anything like this done in a real classroom, but we feel that it would be a wonderful activity to try. It would engage students and teach them geometry at the same time. However, all students would have to have access to computers to work on this project. Often, students only go to the computer lab once a week, and there is only one or two computers in the classroom. If we were doing this project, we would have to figure out how to have a large amount of time on the computers. They would have to have enough time to design the art, make slides showing their process, and record their narratives for their slide shows. This could take a considerable amount of time, and it may be a problem at some schools to get this much computer time.

In class, we have frequently discussed geometry and shapes. This article presents many of these ideas about which we have talked considerably—polygons, shapes, and terminology. Students creating op art must think about which polygons they want to use and which other shapes will fit into their art. Then, they must use the correct terminology to describe them. This is something about which we have talked extensively. This project allows students to use "adult" terminology for the ideas they are learning, rather than using "baby" terminology. Also, we think that the teacher who is presenting this lesson could even use this medium to move into a discussion on many other math ideas. For example, many of the lines in the pictures intersect the shapes and divide the pictures up into several parts, thus leading into a discussion on fractions.

Evelyn Brewer does a wonderful job of presenting this article. Her ideas are fresh and interesting, and it is well-written. Her project, "Op Art Geometry," is a great way to get students interested in geometry, and it is fun. Students will be encouraged to work harder and they will learn more thoroughly because they are engaged. Plus, they actually understand what they are learning. What a concept!


Brewer, E. J. (1999). Geometry and op art. Teaching Children Mathematics, 6(4), 220-224, 236.


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