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Fractals right on our front door!
How absolutely perfect is that, as we spend our week focusing on the fascinating side of math, God sends fractals right to our front door? You have to understand, in our part of Northwest Washington, we don’t get truly cold weather very often. The last few days the temperatures have been down in the teens, hence the beautiful frosty fractals that appeared on our front door overnight.
First, I explained what a fractal was: a geometric shape that repeats itself, often in more and more complicated patterns. A fractal has the same basic shape at a large scale, as a small (and often microscopic) scale.
Then we discussed different areas of the natural world where we find fractals: snowflakes, mountains, clouds, trees, ferns, etc.
Then we tried our hand at making our own fractals.
Last night shortly before bed, Hezekiah(4) was thumbing through one of my favorite books, Turbulent Mirror, and asked, “Mom, are water drops fractals?”
I also introduced the concept of tessellation (a term which I only discovered Sunday afternoon, by the way). Tessellation is the combination of one or more shapes such that, when repeated, the patterned covers a surface without leaving any gaps or overlaps.
My children have made patterns that tessellate many times over the years, without realizing it was an actual mathematical pattern. By copying the page describing tessellation out of our book The Illustrated Dictionary of Math, my older children have displayed a renewed interest in our pattern blocks. I took the blocks out of their normal plastic bin and placed them in a basket with our page on tessellation. They can’t keep their hands off of it.
What do I hope to accomplish with all this? I hope to pique an interest about math in our natural world. I hope to show my children that there is so very much more to math than addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I hope to show them how our Creator of our world is also the creator of math. That oftentimes the beauty in our natural world can be explained through math. I hope to have them become so familiar with these subjects that when they meet them later on in higher math, they are able to greet them as old friends, instead of objects to fear.
And whether or not I accomplish any of those goals, we are having fun and learning together. And that sure beats them sitting around watching TV, doesn’t it?