Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some Unconventional Math

As some of y'all have pointed out, my blog has been silent for awhile.  It's been a season of redirection, with many upcoming changes in the wings.  I took some quiet time, but I'm back.  More about those changes soon...

In the meantime, let's talk unconventional education (ahhh, one of my passions!).

Remember...true education is not simply getting through a textbook and passing the tests.  Most of us grew up like that, so we accept it as the definition of education.  But think back...really ask yourself what you remember from your many years in a classroom.  To learn it is to own it.  How much do we own from those textbooks of days gone by?  Or did we merely store it in short-term memory until test day, spit it out and move on?

Sometimes education does beg to be redefined, and we have found our family to be always on the path of discovering and honing the definition of true learning.

Yesterday we embarked on a fun activity making a pop-up card.  Sounds simple enough.  Construction paper, scissors, and glue littered the coffee table, and they looked at some directions on how to make a triangle fractal cutout.  So, with brows wrinkled in concentration and hands busy, the questions began to surface.  What is a fractal?  Is this math as well as art?  Whoa...check out what mine looks does that work?  (Remember...Mama is a facilitator here, letting them probe and discover)

When they were finished with their triangle fractal cutout, they wanted to understand fractals.  We looked up information, learned about how a French mathematician discovered the concept, and then looked at a gallery of math fractals.

When Daddy arrived home from work, it was the first thing they talked about.  "Look what we made today.  Do you know what a triangle fractal is?"  Right in the middle of the kitchen, they educated him on fractals with bubbling excitement reserved for only the coolest of discoveries.

Their cutouts were set out on the kitchen counter, and they discovered that when the light shone through them, it decorated the counter with repeating patterns.  And little lightbulbs went off in blossoming minds: "OH!  Look at the pattern on the counter!  They were right...a fractal really IS a repeating pattern...see how it repeats and gets smaller?!"

Could math get more delicious than this??  And fractals are now part of the rich treasure chest in their minds.  They discovered it, and they now own it.  How much more vibrant and real than to simply read the definition in a textbook and memorize it for a test?

frac·tal  (frăk′təl)
A geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. Fractals are used especially in computer modeling of irregular patterns and structures in nature.