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Deborah said in part:
"I am working with a group of museum educators at The Metropolitan Museum of
Art in NYC on designing teacher materials that intergrate art into the K-12
curriculum. We are currently researching the use of linear perspective in
math instruction. Does anyone have any experience with this that they
would like to share? We are looking for your opinions on whether it is
useful as well as any examples of curruculum units that you or someone else
may have developed.
Deborah Seid Howes
Associate Museum Educator
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I am a k-6 art teacher of 10 years after 9 years at 9-12, and I'm at Sonoran
Sky Elementary in Scottsdale, AZ.
I've found that the best age to start students studying making illusions of
depth is in 3rd grade, though I don't teach them linear perspective per se,
but three other means which set the stage for it. These three means involve
the control of overlaps, sizes and placement of subjects on plane (ground or
floor) which may recede to a horizon. In sixth grade I begin getting students
to experiment with linear perspective after they've seen a wonderful video the
Nat. Gallery produced about five years ago. In neither of these lessons have I
overtly made reference to mathematical concepts, even though they are there.
Following are my lesson plans for the 3rd grade lesson.
First a pre-testing drawing:
Objective is to pre-test students' skills in drawing a landscape to achieve an
illusion of depth. Motivate them by stirring their memories of someplace they
remember being which was in the country, on a vacation trip.-- not in a city,
but any other kind of a place-- e.g. desert, shore, mountain, forest, farm,
etc. They can put whatever things and people they remember in that place.
Tell them I'll be looking for things which are nearby and things which are
far, far away. Materials: paper (white drawing paper in drawer mid-north
counter; crayons ( each table has its own box in its drawing supply cupboard.)
Second, the Lesson I call: Seeing Near and Far
Grade Level: Third
1. Understanding Art: Students will explain how overlapping and size
differences show perspective, and that on a level surface, the lowest part of
a near subject is lower in a picture than the lowest part of a farther
subject. Learners will recognize which objects in a picture are near and
which are far. This is an introduction to the concept of the illusion of
depth on a two-dimensional surface.
2. Creating Art: Students will use scissors to cut out simple animal
shapes. Learners will arrange shapes, using size and overlapping, to show
3. Appreciating Art: Students will identify the differences among near and
far objects in the environment.
4. Vocabulary: perspective, overlap, horizon, horizon line
1. Materials: Each student needs: crayons or water-markers, four sheets of
different colors of construction paper, scissors, and glue.
2. Example Images: Photographs and/or art images which demonstrate our new
concepts. These may be pictures students are asked to find by leafing through
old magazines, cutting out images that they think show near and far objects.
1. Focus on Looking and Thinking: Showing students examples of
two-dimensional images which have near and far elements, ask students what
makes these good examples. Point out how overlap and differences in size help
to achieve an illusion of depth. Point out how these things can be seen in
the actual space around them.
2. Focus on Making Art: Students will draw the shape of an animal on each of
three pieces of paper, each animal being the same kind of animal, but a
different size. After drawing a horizon line on their last sheet of paper,
they will arrange their animals on that last sheet so as to utilize the size
differences and the level of each animal's lowest part in order to achieve
their illusion of near and far. Finally, students will draw additional
elements to complete an image of an environment for their animals.
In order to introduce linear perspective to 6th graders, I first give them a
unit on architectural history and design. They each make a set of four
drawings of either a small vacation home or a fast-food restaurant: bubble
diagram, floorplan, front elevation and a cross-section drawing. Once they
have that experience I've found they're more motivated-- feeling a NEED to
learn and understand linear perspective.
Having taught art to high school students too, I believe very few students are
really ready to get very deep into linear perspective until grades 10-12. I
NEVER felt that I'd arrived at an especially successful lesson with grades
10-12, frankly. Even after numerous valiant attempts. Please put me on your
list to learn about what you come up with. It's a thoroughly worthy project!