Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768. The National Gallery, London

By Katy Matsuzaki, Manager of Academic Programs, New Britain Museum of American Art

Recently a group of docents at the New Britain Museum of American Art gathered in a gallery filled with landscapes and portrait paintings to discuss how they might approach the art with a middle school math class scheduled for a visit. As they looked closely at works by Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Henri, and listened to the more math-minded among them explore geometry, proportion, and compositional formulas therein, fear of the “math tour” quickly gave way to excitement over a new, mathematical way to approach and appreciate artworks.

As the staff member who greenlighted the math field trip, I was heartened by the docents’ willingness to embrace the unknown. Math students in an art museum might at first seem like a foreign concept, but in reality, the immersive visual environment that a curated collection of art images provides can be an incredibly beneficial learning tool for not only the study of mathematics, but the other STEM fields (science, technology, math, and engineering) as well.