Art Plus Math Equals Success in Education

Rice Academic Quad

The Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) is forging full STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) ahead by embracing the visual arts in teaching pre-K–1 mathematics.

Since 2021, RUSMP has been offering online courses for pre-K–1 teachers that capitalize on the benefits of using the visual arts to teach mathematics while making connections to science and using children’s literature to enhance listening and reading comprehension.

In one course, pre-K–1 teachers created a rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to estimate and count the colored star stickers adorning the night sky and made bar graphs depicting the number of stars used.

Next, a RUSMP master teacher introduced Eric Carle’s book, “Draw Me a Star,” to the teachers as a suggestion for a read aloud to their students after completing their “math-terpieces.” The master teacher then led a discussion on how to connect their “Starry Night” artwork to the science curriculum by implementing a lesson on stars and constellations.

Given the need to strengthen pre-K–1 teachers’ understanding of mathematics, RUSMP is meeting this overwhelming demand by offering for the first time an in-person short course, Mathematics for Teachers of Grades Pre-K–1.

The course is taught by Maria Carandas, a teacher specialist at Kolter Elementary. She engages teachers in researched-based, hands-on, mathematical explorations and cultivates an awareness of mathematics in everyday life. Carandas introduces mathematics songs and children’s literature that enhance the learning of mathematics. She also provides assessments to measure student understanding. One of the goals of this course is to instill confidence in math teachers.

Additionally, for the first time since its inception 37 years ago, RUSMP will include pre-K teachers in its Summer Campus Program (SCP), a rigorous professional development program in mathematics content and pedagogy. The program was previously for K–12 teachers only.

Next year’s summer campus program titled, “Integrating, Algebra, Geometry and Number Through STEAM,” is designed for pre-K and K–12 teachers. RUSMP master teachers and Rice University faculty will teach the nine-day virtual course and will seek to engage teachers in an active approach to learning mathematics through concept-based activities with an emphasis on motivation, problem solving and STEAM applications.

At RUSMP’s annual Spring Networking Conference held in February on the Rice University campus, several pre-K–1 teachers enthusiastically talked about the STEAM activities they have implemented in their classrooms — a testimonial to the integrity and success of RUSMP courses.

To learn more about RUSMP opportunities for pre-K–1 teachers, please call 713-348-6076.

— Robin A. Ward
Director of Curriculum Integration

— Carolyn White
Director of Mathematics Program


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