MOUNT VERNON — Arms outstretched and music playing, kindergartners tipped from one side to the other.
They stood in a row under felt flags that draped down from the ceiling of the main hall at Mount Vernon Elementary School.

Math coach Sarah Caban and art teacher Dona Seegers were instructing students using flags covered in math equations.
Seegers said the hallway artistic installation, Math Gate, is a combined art and math project inspired by artists Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and his wife, Jeanne-Claude.

The couple installed 23 miles of orange flags along Central Park pathways in New York City. The Mount Vernon Elementary School has incorporated math in a similar artistic installation in the hallway.

More than 20 years in the making, the large art project consists of 7,500 large saffron cloth panels hanging in 16-foot-high door frames.

“We don’t usually do collaborations with math, but the district is really working hard to raise its math scores, so there’s a big push right now,” Seegers said. “The collaboration installation takes up the whole hallway and the ceiling and every student in K-5 has participated.”

Seegers said Christo and Jean-Claude have done these type of installations around the world.

“The main tie-in with the school is to expose students to Christo’s installations and the idea that art is sort of a happening,” she said.

Caban said she has been reading the importance of early algebraic reasoning. Historically, algebra is taught in high school, but she said algebraic reasoning should start in kindergarten.

She wants students to understand that the equal sign in algebra doesn’t mean the end of a problem.

“It tells us whatever is on this side (of the equal sign) is balanced on the other side,” she said.

Seegers said teams of students in each class created balancing math equations that were used in the art installation. For example, a team of four students in one class picked the numbers one and four. Then another team in that same class picked two different numbers that equal five. The numbers were put together on the flags as an addition equation with an equal sign between them.

Kindergartners on Tuesday had to pick the correct numbers glued to the flags on either side of an equal sign that added up to the sum.

Fifth-grader Molly Whittington liked the math the art installation.

“My grandmother’s an artist and I want to be one, too,” Molly said. “I do bonus math on Wednesdays. I like to do math. My teacher said I’m a head of my class, so this fits right in with what I’m doing.”

Her classmate, Ryan Worster, said he especially likes the way the art project is displayed.

“As soon as you walk in the door you see the math and that’s my favorite subject,” Ryan said.

“They know everyone was involved in making it and I think that’s cool.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663
[email protected]

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