STEAMed Magazine January 2016 - Page 17

Similarly, the Common Core Mathematics Standards (2010) for kindergarten call for students to classify objects into given categories, count the numbers of objects in each category, and sort the categories by count. Most certainly, these goals can be accomplished by asking students to identify and graph what types of pets they own, what their favorite season or snack is, or the number of siblings in their family. Why not use student-created art as a tool for engaging in data analysis? Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch PostImpressionist artist most famous for his self-portraits and his paintings of irises and sunflowers. A primarily self-taught artist, van Gogh produced over 2,000 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketches, which became in demand only after his death. In fact, van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. The Starry Night (1889) by van Gogh is perhaps one of the most well known images in modern culture. In this work, the vibrant blue night sky abounds with swirling clouds, several luminous stars, and a bright crescent moon. Below the rolling hills of the horizon lies a small peaceful town featuring a church and other quiet buildings. This oil-on-canvas depicts van Gogh’s view from the window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where he spent a year of his life. While we can be fairly certain that van Gogh was not pondering mathematics as he applied the thick gobs of oil paint onto his canvas, kindergarteners experienced firsthand how this starlit masterpiece could be integrated into a rich mathematics lesson, with a focus on graphing. Figure 2 Art and math merge Gathered on the classroom carpet, kindergarteners gazed at an image of van Gogh’s The Starry Night, projected onto the classroom’s whiteboard. After sharing with the students some biographical information about the artist, the kindergarten teacher and I encouraged the young students to express what they liked and disliked about the painting. One boy described the clouds as “looking like STEAMed Magazine 17 January 2016 Edition