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Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach

Rick Faloon (The Ross School)

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 in other disciplines to develop a student project involving aspects of the Renaissance. During an NCTM Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Rick gave a poster presentation on his project and its results. The pages that follow contain 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 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 (above) and were able to determine their correspondence to the Golden Mean and the Fibonacci Sequence.

Rick Faloon (The Ross School), "Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach," Convergence (June 2010), DOI:10.4169/loci002172