Introduction: Pixel Art

I am a child of the 80s, and love the old school video games. The games used pixels, which were squares filled with a single color. I decided to use this Pixel Art project so my students could make pictures on a grid and show off their creativity. There are many ideas out there for this type of project, but after using this for a few years, I have made some changes to it each year to make it work for my students.

This is a project that I use in my 6th grade math class at the end of our Fraction, Decimal, and Percent Unit. It is a great way for kids to work with these topics and allow them to create something awesome they can keep. Even though many kids cannot stand fractions, the students really go all in with this project and end up taking ownership of this and have a sense of pride when they turn in their finished product. It follows one of our Ohio State Standards dealing with Ratios & Proportional Relationships - 6.RP.3c - Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations. Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent.

In the past I have given the students grids in various sizes depending on their knowledge of the concept. I would give 10 by 10 grids for the students who were on IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) or the students who needed some accommodations to be successful. I would give either a 16 by 16 grid or a 25 by 25 grid for the students who had mastered the content and needed or wanted a challenge.

This year I will be using Google Sheets to allow the students to incorporate technology into this project as well. The students can use the fill color tool to choose a color for the cell. To make it a little quicker, I set up a template using conditional formatting. By using conditional formatting, which is setting up rules for the sheet to format cells based on what you type in them, it allows the students to just type one letter into the cell to fill it completely. The students can change the colors used in the formatting, but they have to make sure they make a copy of sheet before they make any changes. I have attached a link to the template I use. Feel free to use it, but please make a copy for yourself first.


Step 1: Presentation of the Project

When I present the project in my class, I start by going over the color worksheet (PDF located in Supplies) . This is where the bulk of their math points will come from. I let them know that they need to show how many squares (or cells if they use google sheets) are filled with each color. They also have to know the total number of squares on the sheet because they will need to find the fraction, decimal, and percent of each color they have used. When we use the larger grids (16 x 16 or 25 x 25) I have the kids round their numbers so it looks a little nicer. I have included examples of completed color sheets with the Mega Man and Mario examples.

Then I go over the different grids they have the option of using. I explain that they must use more than 3 colors and color at least 50% of the grid. This helps keep the kids from just coloring 3 squares and calling it quits.

Once the color sheet and grid is finished, I show them a few examples that I have made as well as work samples from previous students. Once they start to see some of the creativity of the projects, they get excited and want to start right away. **Side note - If you decided to use this and are only using the paper grids - have a bunch of extras for mistakes or for multiple pictures**.

Step 2: Project Length

I usually give the students around a week to complete everything with this project. Most of the work is done outside of the classroom, but I will give them one or two days in class to work (our classes are 44 minutes) in case they have questions while they are working on them. This year I will give them more time since I am using Google Sheets for the first time.

Step 3: Finished Product

I really do enjoy seeing the finished product when the kids have completed their projects. It is great to get to see their creativity! I have attached some samples from my students from over the years of doing this project. I hope you enjoyed checking this out, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.

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