Scaling Art

Thousand Words Project (Brushstrokes and Words & Research), Judy Radigan, Lewiston High School

Scaling Art- Freshman Mathematics


  • To make connections between mathematics and art, giving students an opportunity to use skills learned.
  • To improve student’s group skills as well as social skills
  • To mix different levels of students for group and social skills modeling.


  • Students will look at art objectively studying the color and shapes that make up a particular picture.
  • Students will identify specific geometric shapes and discuss how the shapes relate to form the picture.
  • Students will work together using coordinate math to recreate a scaled drawing.

Maine Learning Results:

  • K1: Restate, create, and use definitions in mathematics to express understanding, classify figures.
  • E1: Draw coordinate representations of geometric figures and their transformations.


Markers, colored pencils, crayons, Square cut white paper, Sticky pad, Tape, Copies of several pictures from the Bates College Museum of Art with centimeter grid marks and labels (horizontal marked by alphabet and vertical by numbers) allowing coordinates (such as A3) to be found. Rulers, Plastic bins for each group, Clear wall space for the scaled picture.


Introduction to maps or coordinate geometry; Basic understanding of scale drawings

Sequence of Activities:

Students enter a classroom set up in groups of varying sizes, four, five, or six. Pictures of different paintings from the museum are on the desks. They are directed to sit in a group with a picture that they like.

The teacher explains how a scale drawing of the picture will be created. Each student is to choose a particular square on the picture and draw it on one of the square papers and place a sticky with the coordinates on it. This continues for the entire period.

After at least ten squares are finished, they can be put on the wall.  (This works best if they are directed to complete several that are together.)  One student in each group can be trained by the teacher and take over completing the picture,

Students Can be Given Roles:

  • Leader, in charge of recording completed squares
  • Supply Manager, in charge of obtaining more squares and stickies as well as cleaning up markers, pencils, and crayons.
  • Final Product Manager, in charge of taping squares on the wall according to their coordinates
  • Clean-Up Crew, in charge of placing all materials neatly in the bin provided

Roles can be given according to seating or can be chosen by members of the group. To hold the students accountable it may be necessary to write down the names and roles.


Prior or post discussion of color and tools, furthers the integration of art. Color including pure, tint, shade, tone, and mixed should be discussed. Markers, colored pencils, as well as crayons, can be used and mixed. Groups should be allowed to choose whether to mix use of these tools. A post discussion of the effect of squares with markers adjacent to those of either pencil or crayon can lead to flow and contrast. Prior discussion may affect how students choose to create their pictures.

Prior or post discussion of pattern and shapes may affect how students choose to draw or help them analyze their work. A discussion of the geometric shapes and repetition of those shapes will further the study of the picture as well as reinforce understanding of geometrical vocabulary.

A final discussion of the process of creating a picture or a research project will help students review the steps. This activity is presented as a study, sketch, and rough draft. The final product is far from perfect and a discussion of how a better product could be obtained, should lead to the importance of several drafts.

Send us comment on this lesson.