Quilting Offers Multidisciplinary Exploration of Math and Art

Quilting Offers Multidisciplinary Exploration of Math and Art

Often, math and art are seen as opposites: structure and the lack thereof. At the intersection of the two, however, lies quilting: an art form that is inherently mathematical. Families can explore everything from shape identification to tessellations by learning to create quilts together!

Art and math are often seen as being disconnected and opposite from one another: one offering structure and systematic methods, and the other following no predetermined procedures and adhering to no rules. The two are, however, very closely linked and by finding the overlap between creativity and mathematical concepts, families can discover context for and the purpose of some of math’s big ideas.

Quilting offers a fantastic creative entry point for learning math at any age or level. Impossible without basic geometry concepts, quilting involves a great deal of math. The most obvious and easily accessible math topic to explore through quilting is geometry, as all quilts are designed and created based on a complex pattern whose roots lie in the properties of the shapes of the pieces from which it is made. Quilting does, of course, require some sewing skills, but as long as you can sew in a straight line, you can make a quilt. Read the rest of this entry »

Explorations of Number Systems Support Strong Mathematical Skills

Explorations of Number Systems Support Strong Mathematical Skills

By exploring number systems, families can help children to solidify their own understanding of the numerals and place value of our own familiar base ten number system. From binary code and Roman numerals to a lost 13th century cipher and a zero-less system from 300 BC, number systems from around the world can lead to fascinating explorations of numerical representations and place value.

Mastering our ten-digit number system can present challenge aplenty for children – even after they’ve mastered basic numeracy skills like one-to-one correspondence and cardinality, understanding place value and the ways in which it influences the function of each of the four mathematical operations can take years of experience and practice. In order to support mathematicians of almost any age in strengthening their understanding of numbers and place value, families can explore number systems and digits that are different from the base-ten system that we use. By learning how to write numbers using unfamiliar symbols and exploring the theory behind number systems using a base of fewer than ten digits.  Read the rest of this entry »

Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics

Cast On for Explorations of Math, Local History, and Service-Based Learning Through Knitting

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need!

Winter means the wearing of layers – some of our most treasured of which have been hand-knitted with love. Mittens from nana, sweaters from mum, scarves from caring neighbors – all of these handmade warmth-giving items are precious, not only because of the love and care that went into making them, but because of their connection to our agrarian history and the learning opportunities that they can spark. Learning to knit (whether self-taught or guided by an expert) is a creative endeavor like no other, and can lead to explorations of history, culture, complex mathematical concepts, art, and even service-based learning!

Drawing upon western Massachusetts’ rich fiber culture, families can find numerous resources to support knitting-based studies of sheep and shepherding. While sheep usually steal the springtime barnyard show, sheep-based learning can take place any time of year with a few skeins of yarn and some needles! Once upon a time, all yarn would have come from hand-carded wool and been hand-spun, but these days, most woolen yarn is processed in a factory. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to get locally-sourced yarns (and even hand-spun local yarns!) by doing a little research and shopping locally. CISA offers a list of nearly twenty fiber-producing farms in western MA, proving that the tradition of local wool is still alive today!  Read the rest of this entry »

Become A Math Citizen Scientist & Reveal Whether It’s Heads or Tails

Investigating the Flip of a Coin Opens the Door to Math Education

Exactly how reliable and fair is the coin toss? For a coin toss to be completely fair, a coin needs to be perfectly constructed. Be a math citizen scientist, and join the project in figuring out the coin toss!

Flipping a coin is perhaps the most bias-free means of problem solving known to man. The simple choose-a-side-and-flip procedure leaves decision making entirely up to fate, providing quick solutions without debate. And it’s perfectly fair. Or is it?

According to statistics, coins should fall equally on their head or their tail. Scientifically speaking, a coin could technically also land on its grooved edge, but this is exponentially less likely to occur. Mathematically speaking, the occurrences of heads landings are essentially equal to the occurrences of tails landings that take place when a coin is flipped many times in a row. In order for this to be true, a flip must truly provide circumstances under which a coin is equally as likely to land on one side as it is to land on the other. In short: a coin’s weight distribution must be such that it isn’t slightly more likely to lean towards one side over the other.  Read the rest of this entry »

Does Your Power of Estimation Make Number Sense

Panamath On-Line Test Can Also Allow Students to Recognize the Importance of Number Sense

Quickly now! Can you estimate on sight how many pieces of pasta spring forth from your pasta bag? What is your number sense? Find out and contribute to a national study. Your number sense is your power of estimation of how much of something you see.

The national discussion about math education often includes mention of something called “number sense,” an intuitive skill that supports not only our understanding of mathematical concepts, but our overall survival (or success, these days) in the world. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, understanding numbers and the relationships between them is essential to successful math learning – in order to understand the role of each operation and to know when we’ve arrived at a reasonable answer, we must have a foundational understanding of numbers themselves.

Wondering what your number sense is like? Try out Panamath‘s free online test! Panamath measures number sense in addition to something called approximate number system (ANS) aptitude – essentially, it tests how good you are at identifying amounts of things without actually counting them. Made available to the public through a grant from the National Science Foundation, Panamath’s test is an interesting experiment in numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Math Education to Real Life Scenarios

Statistics Have More Meaning When Pulled From A Greater Context

How many potatoes will Britons eat over the next 3 minutes?

Have you ever wondered how much humans consume, how far we travel, or how long we spend on certain activities? If you’ve ever driven by a landfill or watched a trailer of food getting unloaded at a grocery store, you certainly might wonder about the amounts of things being transferred, consumed, and perhaps eventually recycled or discarded. Families who have traveled on planes or trains may have wondered at times about the speed at which they’ve moved or the amount of fuel that it takes to transport them.

Quantifying all of these questions (and countless others) is a fantastic way to provide context for children’s budding math skills. Encompassing all four mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), basic statistics and data collection allows children to understand not only how to calculate rate and collect information, but provides them with a meaningful context for the mathematical concepts that they learn. By embedding math skill development in studies of everyday life, we can provide children with a reason to learn to understand when to divide or multiply, and when to add versus subtract. Read the rest of this entry »

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