When high school students examine a painting by M.C. Escher, they might recognize the same lines and angles they study in geometry. But can the skills they learn in their art classes complement what they learn in their math classes? New research led by EDC seeks to find out.
“Kids in visual arts programs have experience in solving visual and spatial problems. We want to see whether the visual thinking and spatial relations students learn in art class transfer to the study of geometry,” says EDC’s Lynn Goldsmith.
The research project—Can Visual Arts Learning Improve Geometric Reasoning?—is based upon earlier work by project colleagues Ellen Winner of Boston College and Lois Hetland of Massachusetts College of Art. Together, the three researchers are building on that work to determine whether envisioning—imagining that which cannot be directly observed—confers benefits to students’ geometric reasoning.
The study will compare students who have been exposed to intensive visual arts training with those who have not. “The participants will be given a group of tasks, not all of which are related to space. If our premise is correct, some of these tasks should be affected by visual training, and others, like vocabulary, should not,” says Goldsmith.
Based on the results of the research, the project will investigate how visual arts training affects learning in other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content areas.
This three-year project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
M.C. Escher’s “Portrait” © 2008 The M.C. Escher Company-Holland. All rights reserved. www.mcescher.com
Originally published on January 21, 2009