A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting some very dedicated artists, whose attention to detail and precision with proportion has resulted in a magical miniature. We visited the St Jacobs and Aberfoyle Model Railway, begun as a labour of love by 6 railway enthusiasts over 40 years ago.
Their consistent use of 1:48 as their scale is where the magic lies. These artists have applied this scale to every measurement, including time. We saw day become night and night become day each half hour and even watched a 15 minute break happen in a foundry in mere seconds.
In conversation with one of the original 6 artists, we learned that in order to create a model, they went out and measured an actual building, took many photos, and then proceeded to painstakingly replicate all aspects in miniature using a 1:48 scale.
The artists have recreated pieces of our history, capturing measurements of buildings prior to their demolition, or renovation.
This visit got me thinking about the mathematical reasoning required in art, hobbies and crafts.
The artists paid attention to proportional reasoning:
These artists measured out the actual buildings and trains. They then calculated the 1:48 scale in order to build the models with precise details.
Why this matters:
“The ability to think and reason proportionally is one essential factor in the development of an individual’s ability to understand and apply mathematics. Susan Lamon estimates that over 90% of students who enter high school cannot reason well enough to learn mathematics and science with understanding and are unprepared for real applications in statistics, biology, geography or physics (Lamon, 2005, p. 10). While students may be able to solve a proportion problem with a memorized procedure, this does not mean that they can think proportionally.” (Paying Attention to Proportional Reasoning). click on the document cover to read more
The models sit in a landscape, housed around one large room. Within this landscape are rural and urban spaces and reams of track. Envisioning this landscape was no small feat, but it was even more astonishing to hear how they had moved the installation to its current home from its former one by cutting it into 35 pieces and carefully reconstructing it. Now, that brings a jigsaw to a whole new level!
Spatial skills are also practiced by the operators, as they work in concert to move a plethora of trains around the miniature world. Weaving around one another, connecting and dropping cars, all from their booth high above the exhibit, these operators demonstrated their excellent sense of location and movement.
Why this matters:
“In general, people with strong spatial skills also tend to perform well in mathematics. Moreover, the strength of this connection does not appear to be limited to any one strand of mathematics. Researchers have found evidence to suggest that spatial thinking plays an important role in arithmetic, word problems, measurement, geometry, algebra and calculus.” (Paying Attention to Spatial Reasoning) click on the document cover below to read more