Adventures in Aesthetic Computing

I’m teaching three algebra 1 classes this year and I wanted to start the year off with some art projects to fill my classroom. I stumbled upon this idea  developed by Paul Fishwick, while scouring the internet over the summer. It’s called aesthetic computing and it is a great way to turn math into art.  Basically it works like this: You start with an algebraic expression or formula such as the iconic:

You then rewrite the formula in explicit notation, like you would for an excel spread sheet formula: E = m*c^2. Next, create an expression diagram:

From there you assign symbols to each part of your diagram, including the branches which can be used to show relationships or connections between objects in your art piece.

After that, create your masterpiece!
The idea is that students learn how to slow down and dissect a formula and try to reimagine what it means. It helps them see connections, understand the order of operations in formulas and expressions, move in and out of various levels of abstraction, and provides a generating force for some cool art ideas.

You can check out the full lesson plan here. There are three great examples all showing a different way of looking at the formula,

 y = mx + b

I used the middle school lesson for my classes and applied it to our unit on formulas.

First I had them work on this portfolio entry as a bridge between the content and the art. It was fun in itself as there are emoji’s and aliens in it. Then I showed them examples of inspiring collages and sculptures for those who didn’t want to draw or paint.

Here is some of the stuff my students worked on:

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