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Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach

Rick Faloon

Editors’ Note:  The history of mathematics readily lends itself to interdisciplinary teaching.  Rick Faloon, a mathematics instructor at the Ross School, East Hampton, NY, joined with colleagues of other disciplines to develop a student project dealing with aspects of  the Renaissance. During the April annual meeting of the NCTM held in Philadelphia, Rick gave a poster presentation on his project and its results. Below is an outline of the project together with some students’ work. For more information on this exciting strategy of using the history of mathematics in teaching, contact Rick Faloon directly at







The Ross School's ninth grade integrated Leonardo notebook project was co-designed by high school art, mathematics, and science faculty. Taught in conjunction with a cultural history unit on the Renaissance, the aim of this project was to encourage students to think expansively across disciplines and perform like a Renaissance person by producing notes, drawings and mathematical calculations based on their own observations and experiences. As the notebooks demonstrate, students used Renaissance drawing methods such as crosshatching, foreshortening and perspective to create botanical drawings, drawings of inventions and mechanical objects, master copies, studies from the model, and other observational drawings. The science component involved dissecting animals and producing drawings that rendered and identified organs. In mathematics, students measured and drew geometric forms and calculated their volumes. They learned Geometer's Sketchpad and used it to analyze the perspective used in Renaissance paintings as well as to digitally produce their own perspective drawings. In addition, they made measurements of the proportions of the Vitruvian Man and were able to determine its correspondence to the Golden Mean and the Fibonacci Sequence.



Rick Faloon, "Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach," Convergence (October 2004)