Math Art Week 3 – Multiplication Facts

This week in Math Art we created an art panel to illustrate a multiplication fact. Our plants had leaves broken into 2 sections; each section was doodled differently.  The students multiplied the 2 sections by the number of leaves they created to figure out their math fact.



  • cardboard pieces from boxes
  • gesso
  • various paintbrushes
  • acrylic paint
  • plain colored paper for leaves and stem
  • decorative paper
  • mod podge
  • fine tip permanent ink art marker, such as a Sharpie Fine Point Pen*

*It is important to use a permanent ink pen, or the doodles will smear when mod podge is applied.


  1. Paint cardboard with gesso to prime it.  Let dry.  (Use hairdryer to speed up drying time).
  2. Paint a background color on cardboard with acrylic paint.  Let dry.
  3. On colored paper, draw leaf shapes.
    • Divide each leaf shape into sections.  You may choose 2, 3, 4 or more sections.  Each section will be doodled differently.
    • If you are working on a specific math fact, instruct the students to divide their leaves into that number of sections. For example, if you are creating, 6×4, you may have 6 leaves each with 4 sections, or 4 leaves each with 6 sections.
  4. Decorate the leaves by doodling each section with zentangles.
  5. Cut out a slightly larger leaf from the decorative paper to mount under the doodled leaf.
  6. Cut out a stem shape.
  7. Use mod podge to apply all shapes to the dried cardboard.
  8. Write out the math fact and mod podge it on the cardboard.


Math Art Week 2 – Fractions

Our project this week was based on the book “Picture Pie” by Ed Emberley.  Picture Pie helps the reader create simple pieces of art based on the fractions of a circle.   While these look simple, the execution can be quite tedious.  Below are the details for a simple bookmark.


“Fraction Fish Bookmark”



  • black construction paper, cut in 2″ strips for bookmarks
  • colored or patterned paper for circles
  • 1″ circle punch
  • scissors
  • glue
  • laminator (optional)


Teach a short lesson on the fractions of a circle.  Have kids use the circle punch and scissors to cut up and sort fractions.


Choose pieces for the Fraction Fish bookmark. This project requires 12 quarters and 2 eighths.


Arrange pieces in desired configuration.  Glue onto bookmark.


Let dry.  Laminate if desired.  (If you choose not to laminate, press the dried bookmark until all pieces are nicely flattened).

Other Projects

Math Art Week 1 – Number Bonds

This summer we are hosting a small “Math Art” class for a few of our friends.  Each week we will create a math-themed art project (or an art-themed math project!).


Ways to Make “10”

For Week 1 we created a mixed media board that illustrated a Number Bond.  Each student picked a Number, then cut numbers out of newspaper and magazines to show at least 4 “ways to make” their chosen Number.   The ages of these kids were from 7 to 11 years old.


  • cardboard
  • various paintbrushes
  • Mod Podge
  • papers to create a background (scrapbook paper, newspaper, old worksheets)
  • acrylic paint
  • small container to mix paint with water
  • wax paper
  • old magazines and newspapers
  • scissors
  • pencils


  1. Cut pieces of cardboard from old boxes.
  2. Use a paintbrush & Mod Podge to paste on a background.  We used old math worksheets & tests. Tear paper to fit. (If you haven’t used Mod Podge before, just paint the cardboard with a thin coat, place your piece of decorative paper, then paint another thin coat on top.  Continue layering.)
  3. Let dry, about 15 minutes if the Mod Podge is a thin coat.  Trim edges.
  4. Paint the background with watered down acrylic paint.  If the paint is too thick to see the background, wipe some off with a towel.
  5. Let dry.
  6. Have each student choose a Number.  On a piece of paper, have them list at least 4 “ways to make” that Number.  Provide magazines, newspapers, and scissors to hunt for numbers.  (The weekly ads are a great source!)  They can keep track of the numbers they have found by laying them on the paper where they wrote their answers.
  7. When the background paint is dry, use a pencil to sketch the body of a dragonfly.
  8. Paint the dragonfly body with acrylic paint (NOT watered down!).  I place a dab of red, yellow, blue, and white paint on a piece of wax paper for each child, and let them mix colors as they wish.
  9. Let dry.
  10. Have each student look through magazines to find a pretty pattern for wings.  Cut wings and set aside.
  11. Once the paint is mostly dry, use Mod Podge to attach the numbers and wings.
  12. After all paint is completely dry, you can Mod Podge over the entire piece as a finish coat.

Doodle Animals

In Classical Conversations we spend the first six weeks of the year learning the “OiLS” method of drawing taught in Mona Brookes’ book “Drawing With Children.”  OiLS stands for circles (O), dots (dot of the i), straight lines (line of the i), angled lines (L), and curved lines (S).  The children learn to see these elements in many different pieces of art and drawing.

These same elements are also used in the meditative drawing technique of Zentangles.  We do doodles/tangles in our house almost every day as a way to focus our minds and exercise fine motor muscles (sample day here).

doodle horse

The Idea

Combine OiLS drawing method with other drawing techniques, including Zentangles.


doodle frog

The Execution

Lately we’ve been combining our doodles with regular drawing exercises (from 20 Ways to Draw… books).  For younger children (or those with less drawing experience), you could print a picture off the internet and have them fill in the spaces with doodles.  The pictures on this page took a week or two to complete, working 5-10 minutes each day.

doodle squirrel

The Extension

For older children (or those more advanced in drawing), use doodles as accents and/or shading for 3-dimensional drawings.  Results would be similar to the techniques of hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling.

Writing with Legos

Fridays are “Project Day” in our house: the day to get to all the fun things that we can never make time for during the week!   We rotate through language arts, math, science, and art projects.  The past few weeks we returned to an old favorite, the Grammar Garden.

The Idea

Use a favorite toy to elicit creative writing.

The Execution

The kids spent a few minutes building their gardens using the Lego characters, special pieces, and a few building pieces.  Then we went through and named all the nouns in their garden.  At that point they were losing interest, so we put the gardens on a shelf for the next week.

The next Project Day we added verbs and adjectives, and talked about how the different pieces of the garden might fit together into a story.

GG-2 GG-1

Finally, in the third week we wrote our stories.  A highly motivated child might be able to do this all in one day, but I find that 15 minutes is about our limit, especially with a 6-year old participating!  The kids dictated their stories to me, and I typed them into the computer.

Age 7:

“The brave knight rides the pretty white horse to the dragon’s hill. He climbs the mountain. A red dragon breathes hot fire at the knight. The knight beat the dragon. He climbed the rest of the hill and saw a mean, ugly, and smart alien. The alien was throwing his light-sabers at droids. Then the alien threw Thor’s hammer at a man dressed as a clown.”

Age 9:

“Once upon a time, a rock goblin ate an electric man’s hat. The man was scared of the goblin, so he ran and jumped into the ocean.   Then he saw two sharks, right before he jumped off the ocean diving board. He realized the stupid sharks were artificial. When the electric man got out of the ocean, he saw a Stormtrooper riding a horse with a pet rat.   The Stormtrooper saw Mace Windu carrying a rare crystal on his head, so he stole the crystal and went to worship the tiny dog.”

The Extension

Any favorite toy works for this project.  When my teenager was 7 or 8, her favorite toy was Polly Pockets.  She would build elaborate scenes with them, and then act out a story.  I would write down her story into a “book” (printing paper folded and stapled – super fancy!).  She loved to draw, so she would illustrate her stories.  Those books are some of our favorite mementos from her childhood!


Learning Fractions Through Art

One of my areas of frustration with early math learning is fractions.  There’s only so many times we can break a candy bar into pieces, or cut a pan of brownies, or slice a pizza.  Why are all the fraction activities based around food?

The Idea

Explore fractions through art projects.

The Execution

Last week we completed two art projects where we incorporated fractions as a natural part of what we were creating.  The first project was based on Ed Emberley’s Picture Pie book.  I used a large 1-inch circle punch and punched a pile of circles in different colors.  The kids helped me cut some of the circles into halves, quarters, and eighths.  First, we made some of the animals in Picture Pie.  I made sure to use “fraction speak” when asking my kids for pieces: “can you hand me three eighths in orange for the bird’s wings and beak?”

Fractions 1

Bird from “Picture Pie.” Age 5

A few days later my daughter asked to do some more Picture Pie.  We looked at some of the fancy mosaic pictures, and she decided to create her own “Christmas Picture.”  Note that after she glued her mosaic, she embellished her picture with some fraction-esque drawings.

Fractions 2

Age 7

Later in the week we incorporated more of fourths and eighths into our daily Doodles.  I taught the kids a new pattern we called “Flying Saucers.”

Fractions 3

Flying Saucers is in the bottom right quadrant.

We practiced Flying Saucers on scrap paper before starting our Doodles.  Even my 5 year was able to “draw an oval, then draw one line down, draw one line across, and draw four lines from the center out,” breaking the oval into eighths.  Before I even mentioned it, the kids had a collective light bulb moment where they shouted out that we were drawing eighths!  None of them chose to use the new pattern in their daily Doodles, but I later discovered this picture that had been created during free time:

Fractions 4


The Extension

We will be returning to these projects later in the year to learn twelfths.  We will also add in fractions from squares and rectangles.

I would like to create some mixed media pieces (cut and paste, markers, pencils, etc) using the ideas we learn from Picture Pie and our Doodles.  Kandinsky is a good inspiration for these pieces.

Composition 8 by Kandinsky





20 Ways to Draw…

The Idea

Find a drawing book to bridge the middle years (ages 9-11).

The Execution

My littlest kids (ages 5-7) have always enjoyed Ed Emberley’s drawing books.  But one by one they would grow out of these books, or simply be ready for something a little more challenging, a little more realistic.  I spent years trying to find a good drawing book for ages 9-11, or even a book with simple drawings that weren’t childish.  One day I was browsing the book section at Cass Art in London when I found it!  A whole series entitled “20 Ways to Draw….”  So far we own 20 Ways to Draw a Tree (nature subjects) and 20 Ways to Draw a Cat (animals).

Art 75 Art 77

The Extension

The realistic nature of these drawings makes them a good reference for nature journaling.  Use these drawing techniques and ideas to learn more about leaf and tree shapes, bark texture, snowflake crystals, etc.

Art 47


Map Tracing

This year I’ve started taking my younger kids to a Classical Conversations group once a week.  I wasn’t sure how they would like it, but we needed a way to meet new friends in a new city.  So far they love it.  In the younger years it’s just memory work set to songs and games.  It’s right up their alley.  One of their favorite subjects is geography.  Each week they spend a few minutes tracing a map of the US in pencil.  It’s always very rushed, so they asked to try it at home, relaxed and with their favorite drawing tools.

The Idea

Trace a map.  This exercise is meant more to familiarize the student with the map, not for specific work in recognizing the states/countries.  That element comes later after familiarity is established.  (Maps below are from 2 of my kids, ages 7 and 9).


The Execution


  • Map
  • Tracing Paper
  • Tape
  • Fine Tipped Markers (we like these Sharpie ones, but any fine-tipped art marker will work)
  • Optional: a flat board, like a cutting board, to make the project moveable.

Tape the tracing paper to the map and trace.  At first, only trace one or two states/countries, especially if the student is still developing fine motor strength.  (My daughter who struggles with handwriting sometimes prefers this exercise to handwriting practice.  I’m completely fine with that, as she will spend longer, and get more muscle practice, with the map.)  Over time, add more pieces as the shapes become more familiar.  If the child has interest, trace the same map multiple times over a few weeks, or even longer.  If you meet any resistance or frustration, put the map away and pull it out later.  Do only one state a week if that pace works!

The Extension

Draw maps of different countries and regions.

Label maps.

Draw maps on clear plastic, such as sheet protectors.  Stack to create layered maps.


Trading Pennies 2

After the student is comfortable with Trading Pennies 1, and can do some simple regrouping addition on paper, you can move on to more complicated problems.

The Idea

Use pennies and dimes to practice more challenging addition problems with regrouping.

The Execution

Foundational Skills

  • fluent in Trading Pennies 1
  • fluent in counting by 10’s

Concurrent Skills

  • learning to count out money

Step 1 

Set up an addition problem.  In the example below, we are adding 25 cents and 16 cents.  Have your child count out the dimes and pennies.

Trade Pennies for Dimes 2

Step 2

Have your student rearrange the dimes so that they are all grouped together.

Next, have her rearrange the pennies so that there is one group of ten, and another group of the leftovers.

Step 3

Make a big show of trading the ten pennies for one dime.  Add the dime to the dime pile.

The Extension

Once your child is extremely comfortable with this stage of adding, start to moving increasingly to paper math.  If they enjoy counting with money, start to play with concepts like making change for a dollar.


PDF of this problem.
Word DOC of this problem.  Feel free to change and use.  (The formatting looks terrible online, but it should download and look right).
Clip art of Pennies and Dimes to create your own worksheets.

Trading Pennies 1

One of the foundational skills of early math is the ability to understand regrouping (also known as ‘carrying’ in addition and ‘borrowing’ in subtraction).

The Idea

Use pennies and dimes to expose your child to the interchange of ones and tens in place value.

The Execution

Foundational Skills

  • fluent in counting to 10

Concurrent Skills

  • 1 dime = 10 pennies
  • 10 + 1 = 11, 10 + 2 = 12, 10 + 3 = 13, etc.

Step 1 

Set up an addition problem.  In the example below, we are adding 7 pennies and 5 pennies.  Have your child place actual pennies on the illustrations.

Trade Pennies for DimesStep 2

Have him rearrange the pennies so that there is one group of ten, and another group of the leftovers.

Step 3

Make a big show of trading the ten pennies for one dime.

The Extension

Do the activity just to this point for several days.  You may need to park here for quite a while.  However, if your child quickly picks up the idea, take the next step of showing how the dime (10’s) and pennies (1’s) make the written answer to the addition problem.  Next, start adding bigger numbers using dimes and pennies (future post).


PDF of this problem.
Word DOC of this problem.  Feel free to change and use.  (The formatting looks terrible online, but it should download and look right).
Clip art of Pennies and Dimes to create your own worksheets.