Sometimes math diagrams, plots, and examples can be a little dry in our books and on the board. This week learners will be taking a diagram or plot that they want to improve upon and sketch it up with pastels, paints, or other media. Color, composition, and artistic embellishments can be added while, keeping the overall concept in tact. Ask them what a math textbook would look like if they created it. Would you have a cheshire kitty in the mix? Would you turn each chapter in to a different land or island?
These sketches don’t have to be fancy, I recommend small pieces of paper and having fun with it (most of these are around 3×5 inches and took a few minutes.) Most of all – have fun!
This week break out your blocks (or whatever building toy you enjoy). We are building a Sierpinski cube (Menger Sponge) or Sierpinski tetrahedron. I would also encourage learners to create their own shape and expand on it to create a self-similar sculpture or fractal (think what each iteration would look like).
2.) Use toothpicks and gumdrops, cardboard, paper, aluminum foil or other handy building tools in the house.
3.) Use lego (I try not to show learners pictures of the tool they are going to use. I think it’s important to figure it out and discover.)
4.) Try Lux blox – this took us quite a while for the third iteration, but it was fun. We found that for the first three sides we needed to build inward to “figure it out.” My daughter built the last two sides while I build inward. It was a lot of fun.
5. Goobi toys are great and my kids and I have built many fractals with them as well. Below is the Sierpinski tetrahedron.
I love Martin Gardner’s work and books that brought math to so many people in a fun and engaging way. One of the topics he covered was Soma Cubes. This week learners can create and play with this wonderful seven piece puzzle that was invented by Mr. Piet Hein during a lecture on physics. I love this puzzle because there are so many questions to ask and ways to solve it. There are a few options for creating your own:
Option 1: Wooden cubes
I ordered wooden cubes and found they aren’t perfect, but do the job with students. You can get them at craft stores or amazon (affiliated link).
Option 2: Sonobe Origami
You can make a Soma cube with a lot of folding. I would recommend doing this with teams and older students (or as an adult). The folds need to be exact. That being said I have seen 9 and 10 year olds do beautiful origami Soma cubes. The best tutorial that I was able to find is on the Luck Paper Scissors Blog here.
Here are some questions/exercises:
How many unique ways can you solve it? Is there a systematic way to track your solutions?
Are there combinations that will never have solutions (ex: starting with one or two pieces in a particular way)
What other symmetric constructions can you create?