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Object Lessons

  • Title:Object Lessons: Teaching Math Through the Visual Arts, K-5
  • Author:Caren Holtzman, Lynn Susholtz
  • Publication Date:April 2011
  • Grade Level:K-5
  • ISBN:9781571107961
  • Publisher:Stenhouse

When Caren Holtzman and Lynn Susholtz look around a classroom, they see "a veritable goldmine of mathematical investigations" involving number, measurement, size, shape, symmetry, ratio, and proportion. They also think of the ways great artists have employed these concepts in their depictions of objects and space -- for example, Picasso's use of geometric shapes in his Cubist still lifes or contemporary artist Tara Donovan's room-sized sculptures of everyday items.

In their new book Object Lessons, Caren (a math educator) and Lynn (an artist and art educator) use a highly visual approach to show students and teachers the art in math and the math in art. Integrating visual arts into math experiences makes the lessons accessible, engaging, and meaningful for a wide range of students.

In each chapter, the authors use everyday objects to create rigorous, hands-on activities that address key mathematics standards and concepts. Each lesson provides:

  • an introduction to the featured object that explains how it connects to key mathematical concepts;
  • a discussion of the artists, art styles and techniques featured;
  • activities organized by grade level and math content area;
  • the basic materials required to prepare and teach each lesson;
  • a clear picture of what the lesson will look like in a classroom; and
  • a list of resources.

The book and its accompanying CD feature a wonderful gallery of images—including art photos and student work—and a collection of links to art education organizations, museums, and Web sites that focus on the work of forty major artists.


Author Bio

Caren Holtzman began her teaching career with Oceanside Unified School District. She was a classroom teacher (grades 2-6) for ten years. She subsequently began her work as a faculty member at the University of California San Diego's Education Studies Program (EDS). Caren directs the PAL (Partners at Learning) Program, which is the largest service-learning program on campus, offering classes to UCSD students from all majors and colleges. The UCSD students enrolled in PAL courses serve as mentors and tutors in underrepresented pre-K–12 schools throughout San Diego County. Currently, close to 600 UCSD students take PAL classes every year. Caren's work with the PAL Program has allowed her to collaborate extensively with local community colleges, pre-K–12 schools, and community organizations. She is also the director of the UCSD Artsbridge program. Caren teaches education classes to undergraduate EDS minors. She works extensively with the preservice teachers enrolled in the EDS elementary credential/MEd program. She teaches both math methods and arts methods. Additionally, she advises MA students and serves on various leadership committees. Caren has worked on math curriculum development projects for the California Department of Education and was part of the California Math Leadership Project. She has worked extensively with teachers and administrators across the country, helping them deepen their understanding of mathematics and sharpen their skills in teaching mathematics. She spent a semester serving as a full-time mathematics consultant for Manhattan District 2 in New York City. She has been a mathematics teaching consultant for Marilyn Burns Education Associates. Caren has written several children's books, published by Scholastic. In addition, she is the coauthor (with Rusty Bresser) of several teacher resource books published by Math Solutions Publications. Caren has received many grants and awards, including the Barbara and Paul Saltman Distinguished Teaching Award.

Lynn Susholtz has been involved in art and education for the last twenty-five years. She has developed curricula for and taught in private and public schools, community centers, and social service organizations, with people of all ages and backgrounds, throughout the county of San Diego. She is an arts education consultant who works with teachers in the classroom and with local school design teams to create environmental design enhancements to their sites. She has been an Artist-in-Residence for the California Arts Council, and an arts education consultant for the University of California San Diego's Education Studies Department and San Diego Unified School Districts. Lynn continues to develop multidisciplinary arts programs and teach free after-school art classes; she has a passionate commitment to providing accessible art experiences to young people in their own communities. Lynn owns the public art and education company Stone Paper Scissors, known for local public art projects, including the Vermont Street Bridge and the North Park Community Park Playground. She is interested in integrating youth and community ideas and needs into public art, facilities improvements, and environmental design. Students of all ages have been consultants and collaborators on all of her public projects, and she has been a mentor to many who have an interest in professional art practices. Lynn recognizes children's innate understanding of how an enlivened and artistic environment enhances our world, creates a sense of possibility, and represents the value projected onto them by the adults in charge. Arts education in a broader approach is the goal of the Art Produce Gallery, which Lynn owns and curates. The gallery is entirely visible from the sidewalk and has become a unique venue for student work and emerging artists. The space allows unconventional presentation opportunities for artists and unexpected art encounters for viewers. Intended to enliven the experience of the pedestrian, it is an experiment in public art and education that is accessible to everyone. It is an attempt to make the art process both visible and transparent.

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