Lake Erie College students study mathematics in the Cleveland Museum of Art


While most midterms involve putting pencil to paper, the students in Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Education Betty Clifford’s HU 125: Critical Thinking through Math and Science class at Lake Erie College had the chance to take their learning outside of the classroom. On Oct. 14, the class traveled to Cleveland to explore mathematical concepts within the art collection at The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA).

On campus, Clifford aims to teach this mathematics course through the eye of an artist or philosopher. "There is so much more to mathematics above and beyond memorizing and proving formulas, equations and calculations,” she said. "Math is all about patterns and rhythms, so there is plenty of math in art. Whether it’s the visual arts or the performing arts, math can be a tool, an inspiration, or simply something that’s naturally contained within the structures and patterns.”

Over the course of the day at the CMA, the students engaged in a scavenger hunt, searching for art depicting the mathematical concepts they’d studied in class. These concepts included geometric shapes, fractal features, the iteration of patterns, tessellation, and the use of various perspectives, including consideration of the focal points in different pieces.


For the students, many of whom had never been to the CMA before, the visual application of the mathematical concepts aided in the learning process. "The artwork really made the different topics in the class come to life,” said Harry Giegerich, a freshman at the College. His classmate, freshman Hannah Williams, had similar opinions: "This trip really showed the beauty of mathematics,” she said. "We got to see firsthand how mathematical concepts in art have evolved from the 1400s to present day.”

To take full advantage of their trip to Cleveland, the class finished the day with dinner at Mama Santa’s restaurant in Little Italy. Freshman Jenna Dripps summed up the sentiments of the trip nicely: "I’d definitely like to have more midterms like this!”

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