Many things look better in color, right?

So why should that be any different in math?

I’ve found that taking a “colorful approach” to math not only makes mathematical objects look more interesting and pleasurable, it can also make mathematical concepts more clear.

Here’s an example from something I did today — I used color to show a shortcut for finding the perimeter of rectangular-ish objects.

I was tutoring a boy who had to find the perimeter of this figure:

Right object, find perimeter

This student did not see that there is a short-cut that could help him find the perimeter. I wanted to make this clear, so I reached for my color pencils and colorized both the left vertical segment and the two right vertical segments. My goal was to help the student see that the sum of the two right vertical segments equals the long left vertical segment.

The student realized this after I colorized it. Then I used a different color, red, to show that the sum of the two horizontal segments on top equals the longer horizontal bottom segment, like this:

At this point I felt that the student was ready to see the math that relates to the whole figure, so I wrote the math, using color to relate the numbers to the colors of the sides of the figure, like this:

At this point the student was able to see the shortcut in this kind of problem, which together we wrote as follows:

This is a fairly basic example of how color can, quickly and effectively, illustrate math concepts. Feel free to share examples of how you use color in your math lessons. I’m curious to learn (and share) a variety of ways, for I see that color has great potential.

Image via Wikipedia

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