“Ceci n’est pas un Cube!”

Possible Classroom Concepts:  Mathematics: Geometry (3D Shapes)

Language Arts: Literature, Science – Recycling, Repurposing

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Louise Nevelson, Pol Bury, David Smith, Tom Otterness

Elements of Art (Form), Sculpture (Relief, Free Standing), Assemblage, Drawing (One Point Perspective, Shading), Nonobjective, Abstract

Today on my last post about geometry (I also talked about it herehere and here), we will be investigating what math teachers call 3D shapes and art teachers call forms. A form is another element of art, the building blocks of all works of art. Forms in many cases are quite literally building blocks, LOL.

Have you ever given a child a gift and they ended up carrying off and playing with the box  instead of that expensive something you chose?


I certainly have! Well, that is the premise for the book,  Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis. You can also find a video of the book here. I love this book because it highlights creativity, something I recently talked about here. At what age do kids lose the imagination gift? I hope with your help, they never will.


Rene Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe.)”

Portis’ book also reminds me of Magritte’s “This is not a pipe.” painting, thus the title of this post.

So, now let’s look at the creative ways famous artists have used “a box” and other 3D shapes or forms. Sculptor, Louise Nevelson, put forms inside boxes. She would pick up discarded pieces of wood from all over New York City and arrange them inside wooden boxes. She was another artist who recycled and repurposed way before it became popular or necessary. Calder and Picasso also recycled. Nevelson would then paint the boxes a solid color of black, white or gold.  Lastly, the sculptor would stack the boxes together in an interesting way. Because we view these works only from the front, we call the works relief sculptures. Students could “I Spy” spheres, cylinders and cubes in the Nevelson sculpture found in this lesson. A short bio can be found  here. There is a nice concise and informative video here. Sculptor, Pol Bury, also put forms inside a box in his work, “16 Balls, 16 Cubes in 8 Rows”. How are the two sculptor’s works the same and different? Just think of all the sets and addition facts one could identify and reinforce using Bury’s relief sculpture! Sculptor. David Smith created a series of stacked metal cube works appropriately titled Cubi. Scroll down to David Smith’s name in this post to see Cubi XI.  What number does Roman numeral XI represent? The Cubi seem pretty nonojective (Meaning they don’t seem to be representing any person, place or thing.). Tom Otterness is a sculptor who combines basic forms into abstract (Meaning you can tell what it is but it is not realistic.) people. You can find some examples of Otterness’ sculptures here. He even created some playgrounds, one of which you can see here.

Any or all of these artists might provide a different method for evaluating a 3D shape unit.  Students could rummage through their recycle bins at home and bring in examples of forms, such as cardboard boxes, paper rolls, etc.  One activity students might do could be a “Not a Paper Tube!” activity. After reading “Not a Box”, give each child a paper tube, scissors. glue, tape and cardboard. Then, just see what they come up with. I’ll tell you, the sky is the limit on this one. Just look at how many paper tube possibilities I’ve found on Pinterest. Another idea is to have students arrange and glue the recycled treasures inside boxes or stack them. They could make them abstract or nonobjective. Lastly older students could strengthen their drawing skills by making a one point perspective box using this drawer drawing lesson as a guide. They could then use this lesson to guide them to drawing and shading forms for inside the box. Or, instead they could just draw the forms stacked into nonobjective or abstract sculpture drawings. They could even design their own playgrounds. At the conclusion of their project, students could write a narrative explaining how and why they created their masterpieces. They should also include all the geometric vocabulary and definitions involved in the sculpture’s making.

What an EXCITING way to combine mathematics, science and art!!!! Have you used any art in your geometry units? I’d love to hear about them. Simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

Hope to see you again real soon!


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