Why should you encourage creativity in math class? If you’ve been a Math Giraffe fan for some time, it’s hopefully clear that my main goal is to infuse fun and creativity into your math lessons, while maintaining rigorous learning.
I recently watched an awesome Ted X talk about Creativity in Math Class. Samuel Grayson shares why he believes we should rethink how we teach math:
“We are teaching math as if it is not a creative pursuit.”
Grayson explains that we need to teach our students to think out of the box, meaning we need to restructure our lessons that include memorization and templates to lessons that encourage original thinking and creativity.
Creativity does not tend to take center stage in many typical math classrooms, although it has been proven to have many benefits. According to The Lab School, “the educational community largely embraces the notion that creative expression is an important aspect of a student’s learning experience. We also know that exposure to the arts and arts-integrated instruction has positive educational benefits, especially for learners who have not succeeded in typical learning environments.”
Creative thinking skills help develop intrinsic motivation and help your middle and high school students become lifelong learners. Teens should be given the opportunity to seek out new experiences and experiment with new ideas.
They should be taught to ask questions and investigate to help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; art encourages this.
In addition to all of the brain-based benefits, creativity has the added bonus of fun and relaxation. Students love to have the opportunity to relax and use their creative sides. School days can be monotonous for our middle and high school students, so art and creativity in math class is the perfect way to break up the day!
According to an article, Study Reveals How Creative Brains are Wired, a new study reveals that creative people are wired differently than most. An important finding of this study is discovering that creativity doesn’t simply come from the left or right side of the brain; “it is a whole-brain endeavor.”
Creativity is not something where you have it or you don’t. This tells us that we need to encourage both hemispheres of the brain in math class to really maximize the benefits of creativity.
So, now that you know why creativity should have a place in the classroom, especially math, here are some ideas on how to incorporate creativity in the upper grades!
A recent study proved that doodling actually INCREASES focus and the ability to recall new information. With these color-it-in, doodle-friendly note methods, your students can use their colored pencils and the right side of their brains, and then remember key vocabulary, math examples, and new concepts more easily.
Incorporate coloring, hand lettering, and creative graphic organizers whenever possible. Coloring can improve memory, learning, and retention. It even offers the additional benefit of stress relief. The relaxation that comes from coloring decreases activity in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain affected by stress.
It is possible that this is partly due to an unconscious reminder of childhood, a time of lower stress. It is great to add just a touch of coloring (in a purposeful way) to a math activity. This can help students to relax and focus while still learning.
A few of my favorite ways to do this are:
- When working through "Always True, Sometimes True, Never True" critical thinking challenges, I have kids color statements red for "never", blue for "always," and green for "sometimes." (Added bonus - I can check for accuracy in two seconds by arranging the statements in a pattern.)
- Students shade or color answers in "GridWords" puzzles to reveal the mystery words. Then, I include either an action word as the GridWord or a mathematical connection throughout a series (for example, all the words in my polynomial factoring GridWords series turn out to be places that the Golden Ratio is found in nature. It's fun to see them try to figure out this connection with each new word they color - "Hmm, how are "pinecones" and "fingers" related??") The GridWords for prime factorization and simplifying expressions are action words, so the kids clap, hum, tap, etc. when they reveal the word.
- When teaching geometry, I like to have my students incorporate color-coding their notes and work. For example, if I’m teaching special angle pairs, students can color specific types of angle pairs certain colors (or even use patterns, like stripes / polka dots).
Try having kids explore (and/or display) their learning goals by creating anchor charts.
Have kids explore a problem in more creative ways, like the video above shows. Try the Socratic Method. Try structuring your class period in a completely different way. See how you can change things up to get the kids' creativity to come forth. Students are naturally creative and will try new approaches if you just leave open some opportunities for this to happen.
The options are endless!
Add your own thoughts and specifics for us! How do you get your students’ creative juices flowing? Leave a comment below!
Creativity in math class is a definite no-brainer! Subscribe through email to hear more from me: