Bridging mathematics and art to improve learning for minority students

Artlight Global is a new initiative that connects two different disciplines to help students learn math

Kate Fitzpatrick of Artlight Global teaches children in India
Kate Fitzpatrick of Artlight Global teaches children in India
CREDIT: Artlight Global

Artlight Global’s journey began at a Southeast-Asian Fulbright Conference in Jaipur, India, in early 2016. After presenting our research on a panel, we found we shared common interests in using art integration as a mechanism for deeper understanding and learning of mathematics concepts.

It is well documented that there are a range of factors that undermine students’ ability to perform well in mathematics, and many factors are exacerbated when students come from minority backgrounds. 

Children with marginalized backgrounds continually perform poorly in international mathematics skills comparisons, which leave them several grade levels behind their peers who have more advantages (Global Partnership for Education, 2012).

Using art can help students lagging behind

With lack of early exposure to numbers and simple mathematics informally at home, teachers with limited proficiency in mathematics, and insufficient resources, students are left without opportunities to learn through differentiated instruction practices that are offered in many high achieving schools around the world.

Fortunately, research shows that when art is used to teach mathematics, it can impact students’ understanding and retention of key concepts and vocabulary. Both fields observe, describe, and imitate our natural world, which is important as students advance not only in mathematics or art, but also in science, technology, and engineering.

When students are equipped with knowledge of these fields, it improves economic development and allows children to see themselves as collaborators, problem solvers and critical thinkers.  

An idea sparks a new initiative

The added value of integrating art with mathematics laid the groundwork for us to think about how to provide students with tools to improve learning and strengthen skills needed to retain mathematics content.  Upon returning to the United States, we developed ArtLight Global, an organization dedicated to providing arts-integrated workshops in mathematics to students who would benefit most.  

ArtLight Global’s workshops help students better conceptualize and understand mathematics concepts, such as ratios, fractions or geometry, through art.  Art is the catalyst that provides students with a variety of hands-on experiences to practice skills that encourage understanding of new material and reinforce familiar mathematics concepts such as ratios through fractions, proportion and scale. By combining mathematics and art in these activities, the workshops will also encourage a collaborative environment were students work together to find solutions and meaning by building a stronger community through trust and empathy.

Artlight Global focuses on using art integration to:

  • Teach mathematics using local knowledge and resources
  • Connect mathematics to everyday life
  • Address differentiated learning in the classroom

ArtLight Global will offer a free six-day canvas painting workshop & art exhibition for 8th graders at Parikrma Humanity Foundation in Bangalore, India, in January 2018.  Although Bangalore is the IT capital of India with over a million people working in this industry, 85% of India’s children cannot access these jobs. 

The Parikrma Humanity Foundation, an NGO based in Bangalore, serves over 1,700 children across 70 slums and four orphanages in Bangalore.  The purpose of the workshop is to improve mathematics appreciation to 8th grade students through canvas painting in an effort to improve the school community and student interpersonal skills and confidence.  The workshop will teach students mathematics concepts via art techniques for five days. On day six, students will showcase their paintings and participate in a final discussion and reflections.

Please visit our website to learn more about Artlight Global and about the workshop at Parikrma Humanity Foundation


South Asia: India


Deepa Srikantaiah is an international education specialist. Deepa started ArtLight Global because she believes the intersections of mathematics and arts education provides an empowering conduit for the voices of those who are...
Kate Fitzpatrick is a D.C. based artist and educator who is immersed in how art impacts education and learning. Kate is trained in the fine arts and has been teaching art in private and public school settings for over 16 years...
Apoorva Weber is a Seattle, WA based illustrator, designer & certified project management professional. Apoorva holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business from The University of Maryland. Go Terps! She explores...

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