Finding the Art in Ratios

How many of you 6th grade math teachers have already fought the good fight with ratios and rates? Ha! We are halfway through our ratio unit and I’m happy to say that the headaches are on the decline (for both the students and myself)! This year I had a new idea to integrate art into my ratio unit with a color-mixing lesson.

I used this lesson to introduce the concept of equivalent ratios. My students already knew how to find equivalent fractions, but I felt like the deeper understanding just wasn’t quite there. Before we even began using the ratio vocabulary I told my students that we were going to paint color wheels (a quick internet search will lead you to many examples of a color wheel). We discussed primary and secondary colors and then practiced mixing paints. Here I set out a challenged for students in one group to make the same shade of light yellow, we called it sun yellow. We talked about how adding too much white would make it too light, and not enough would make it too dark. The trick was that they were all making different amounts.

Before I even said the word ratio or equivalent students were able to explain those concepts in their own words. I heard things like “I need more white for all this yellow!” They were connecting the dots and understanding that a ratio is a comparison of two things (in this case yellow and white paint) and that you can make the same shade of yellow in bigger or smaller quantities you just have to account for the change. It was an overall success of a lesson. Of course my students weren’t as excited to exit this activity and move over to “mathy” equivalent ratio word problems, but this remained a great experience for us to spring back on as a class if anyone got confused about equivalent ratios.

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