Math in Art and Nature

Background Information

Indigenous Art

Mi’kmaq people create art that is practical, meaningful and aesthetically pleasing, often using resources provided by the land. Mi’kmaq people are well known for their basket making and quill work. To create baskets and other forms of art different woods are used including the bark and the branches of the tree. Quill work uses porcupine quills, for more information about quill work click here.

Mi’kmaq artist Loretta Gould is a quilter and painter who loves bright, beautiful colours. She is also the author of the book “Counting in Mi’kmaw” which introduces counting in both Mi’kmaq and English up to 10. To view some of her art click here.

Well known Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy’s work is based on Indigenous Mi’kmaq rock drawing and quill work traditions. His themes include family, spirituality, struggle and strength. To visit his website for further information click here.

African Nova Scotian Art 

African art began as images carved into rock known as petroglyphs and sculptures made of terracotta. This art has influenced many well known artists and evolved throughout time. African art is created in many different modes including sculptures, painting, pottery, rock art, textiles, masks, personal decoration and jewelry. African art is not limited to collectibles as it can be found on human skin, on houses and on rock faces.

The Black Artists’ Network of Nova Scotia (BANNS) is a non-profit organization that seeks to develop the African Nova Scotian arts community. Click here to visit their website.

How do these types of art connect to math?

Check out the following link to learn about how math is connected to famous art

Math Connections to Art and Nature 

Try the following activities to learn the connections math has to our everyday lives.

Activity 1) Tessellations 

Tessellations are a pattern of shapes that fit together perfectly without any overlaps or gaps. The only classic polygons that can make up tessellations are triangles, squares and hexagons as they are the only geometric 2-D shapes that will fit together without any gaps or overlaps. However, you can make tessellations with irregular shapes that do not fit the category of a triangle, square or hexagon. 

Option 1: Make your own tessellation on a piece of blank paper! Click here to learn some Tips and Tricks to create your own Tessellation.  Some of the tips outlined in the video are; 

  • Use sticky notes or tape to make your shapes to keep them from moving as you are making you tessellation 
  • Choose the right size shape for your tessellation to be able to fit enough on your paper to make a pattern

Option 2: Create an account on GeoGebra and use the Geometry application to create virtual tessellations. 

Tessellations can also be found in nature on animals (snakes, dragonflies and giraffes), on honeycombs and on pineapples! 

Activity 2) Spirolaterals

Spirolaterals are a spiraled design of repeated commands using length and angles.  In order to create a spirolateral a number is chosen and its multiplication sequence is written out.

To learn how to make your own spirolateral click here! 

OR follow these steps;

Step 1) Choose a number from 2-9 and write out its multiplication sequence. For this example we will use the number 5. Multiplication sequence: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55

Step 2) Next you will need to turn the sequence into single digits by adding the two digits of each number together. 10 becomes 1+0=1, 15 becomes 1+5=6. Added digits: 5, 1, 6, 2, 7, 3, 8, 4, 9 (Once you see a pattern you can stop)

Step 3) Using graph paper these digits will turn into art. Use your first number from step 2 and draw a line that is __ (5 in this case) many squares long. Make a 90-degree turn to the right, and draw a line that is the second digit long (1 in this case). Make a 90-degree turn and draw a line that is the third digit long (6 in this case), etc.

Step 4) When you complete the final line of the sequence (use the final digit) start over with the first number and continue until the spiral connects back to the very first line.

Step 5) Color in your spirolateral!

Activity 3) Fibonacci Numbers in Nature 

The Fibonacci numbers are; 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 133 and onto infinity. Each number is the sum of the previous 2 numbers. The Fibonacci numbers often appear in nature and can be seen on flowers and even the human body. 

The Fibonacci spiral is a connection of quarter-circles drawn inside squares that use the Fibonacci numbers for dimensions. The squares fit perfectly together because of the nature of the sequence; the next number is equal to the sum of the two before it.


Step 1) Draw your own Fibonacci spiral on graph paper and decorate it how you want (seen above).

Step 2) Watch this video to learn how the Fibonacci spiral and the Fibonacci numbers are found in nature: 

Step 3) Go for a walk outside and see if you can find the Fibonacci numbers in any plants around your neighborhood. If you find a pine cone laying on the ground take it home and decorate it with any materials you have available to emphasize the Fibonacci spirals on the pine cone as seen in the above video. This can be done with glitter glue, tape, markers or any other materials that you have.

Activity 4) Nature Walk 

This activity is a great for younger students. Watch this video to learn how walking around your neighbourhood you can find math in many places.

Try going for a walk around your neighbourhood and find some of the items that were pointed out in this video or think of your own math connections that can be found outside in nature! Look for; bee hives, pine cones, sunflowers, reflections on the water and any other patterns that you may find! 

While outside on your nature walk, create patterns using pinecones, rocks, fallen leaves, etc. Create the core of the pattern and have a friend or family member determine what the pattern is and extend the pattern. Additionally, notice sounds that you can hear in nature. Are there any birds that are creating a pattern with their chirping? 


Check out the following links to learn more about the connections between math, art and nature.

Des-Pet: Get creative while reviewing function inequalities and domain and range restrictions.

Math in Nature:

Materials Needed

  • Paper
  • Coloured pencils/markers
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Graph Paper
  • Pine cones (found on nature walk)
  • Glitter glue, paint and paint Brushes (optional)

For a Full module and Nova Scotia Curriculum Connections visit our google drive here;–WN4EWDdm3KaT5CBCTPvmWQraqIfl8/view?usp=sharing



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