I am captivated by tide pools. They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish. Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.
Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.
Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use. Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution. Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.
This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution. I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence. Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful. Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.
So what does all of this have to do with math scores? After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation. I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations. A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely. Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone). Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more testing.
So back to art. There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process. In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music. In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes. All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions. In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.
My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun. Children need creative outlets! And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!” Maybe have students visit tide pools too. Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?