Sunday, July 22, 2012

Art photography in the maths classroom - thanks to flickr

So much of the mathematics content we teach appears to many students to be fairly dry on the surface - we hope we bring them on the journey to see its wonder, but there is nothing like a great visual to create interest and start a quality discussion. Recently I tapped into an amazing resource: flickr photos provided under Creative Commons licenses.  There are thousands of high quality inspirational photographs available just waiting to go into a mathematics lesson.

For the topic "The Quadratic Function", water was my visual theme. I use just one of these images for each lesson - we start the lesson with a full screen, high definition version and then I use smaller versions to create a visual link for transitions between lesson activities.

Water is Life water and light parabloa?
frozen moment chasing water I Fuente // Fountain
All images under Creative Commons. Click on the photograph for details.

For the topic "Locus and the Parabola" I blended an astronomy theme (think: parabolic reflectors) and more abstract designs:

Outreach North of Umatilla A fly's eye view Is a Flickr image good if its thumbnail isn't? Curly Wurly rope handsome antenna Tangents Marinos Ices Mixture
All images under Creative Commons. Click on the photograph for details.

These images look spectacular in high definition projected onto a screen in class - and give an opportunity to engage in some broader discussion about the application of mathematics, and the relationships between art, science and mathematics. Interesting to see students also noticing the use of Creative Commons - a chance to model good practice and spread the CC message.

Because the creators of these images generously put their work 'into the commons',  I can use them in my own works and then in turn, share those works with other teachers without any copyright constraints - hopefully helping students in many other classes.

Finding Creative Commons licensed content on flickr
Use the Advanced Search feature:

scroll down and select these boxes:

I also select "Interesting" which tends to return richer images. When using the image, make a CC attribution and provide a link back to flickr page. I also like to leave a thank you comment to author. And thank you flickr for coming to the CC party. Now if only Google would make CC searching available on its main image search page! I believe it is there - just hidden - and life is too short to look for hidden options.


  1. Mathesmatics
    Science and mathematics are not cool subjects, say students. Consequently, if these subjects are compulsory, students opt for an easier stream in secondary school and are less likely to transition to university science programs.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. There are lot of HD Images on the internet, everyone can find them independently here, you have also posted here amazing pictures that is knot a great matter wherever you have get it. there is a thought in my mind how can you use the photos in maths classroom.

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    1. There are indeed many images on the internet - the challenge is to find images you can legitimately use without major restrictions when creating educational resources. I found Flickr + its CC-search option a fairly unique solution.

      How to use in the maths classroom? To inspire a sense of wonder, to invoke questions, to hopefully show ways to look at what may be commonplace in a new light, and to create *memorable* images which can be linked with new mathematical ideas or themes - to help students retain the ideas.