Category Archives: Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Preschool Weather Observations

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In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. ~William Blake

{This post is Part 1 of “The Weather Calendar:  Science Activities for Preschool, Elementary Grades and Beyond,” a 6-part series on weather observations as part of daily math and science teaching in the early childhood years, and beyond}

“What is the Weather Today?”

Are you looking for a way to hook your students in your daily lessons? Do you have some students who still struggle with number concepts or math and science vocabulary? Has winter weather disrupted your flow and distracted your students?

Of course, most of you will answer yes, yes and yes – especially if you live in the Northeastern United States, where we (once again) are being buried in snow. If this is you, consider adding a weather calendar to your morning routine.

I once was working with a group of first grade teachers and recommended calendar routines as an important addition to the daily mathematics repertoire. One teacher balked, saying, “I think calendar routines are a big waste of time. There are so many more important things to do during that time than calendars.” I so disagree! While those of us who have taught kindergarten no doubt use a weather graph somewhere in our school year, weather observations and calendar routines can be adapted and used to teach important grade-level concepts from preschool through grade 3, and higher:

  • By keeping the number of data points low (under 31), weather observations on a calendar can be used for initial or remedial teaching of important concepts of number;
  • Through careful choice of what is recorded on the calendar, grade-level earth science concepts can be layered on and emphasized;
  • Because of the discussion format of calendar time, proper use of the content vocabulary of math and science can be practiced.
  • During conversation, students will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions, analyze and make predictions and statements about data.
  • By focusing on weather phenomena, students can practice new ideas using familiar, readily observable content (the weather).

With better understanding of the grade level math and science possibilities, preschool weather observations, and weather calendar work, can be incorporated into daily routines in all early childhood (birth to grade 3) years, and beyond.

Hip Homeschool Moms

 

Understanding Toddlers and Preschoolers

The preschool years are a time of incredible physical, social, interpersonal and cognitive growth. Babies step out of the familiarity of their home into the bigger world of preschool, daycare or play group. They take in and make sense of a seemingly infinite amount of new information, and begin to make sense of it all. The big advantage teachers (both homeschool and classroom) have when working with children at this age is their innate sense of wonder about everything. Using observations about the weather can be a great way to hook students on looking at the world like a scientist.

In order to make the most targeted use of preschool weather observations and calendar routines for your students, it helps to first note what important number and science concepts toddlers and preschoolers should understand:

 Toddlers to Preschoolers~

  • Understanding and working with numbers to 5
  • Observing and recording patterns in the weather
  • Sorting objects into groups based on one attribute
  • Noting the effect of weather on the environment

A “Circle Time” Staple: the Weather Calendar

Let’s break the concepts above into individual pieces, and see how your weather activities can address each. For each part, I will share some ideas for how to make the best use of this wonderful time of the day. For veterans, some of this information will be old news. But I will also tell you why these activities work with young children, and how they can be powerful ways to emphasize important math and science concepts.

Focus on School Day Observations, Monday through Friday

What to do:

In my classroom, I had one pocket chart that had spots for the date or weather cards for each day of the week: seven pockets in all. Because my preschoolers often didn’t really understand the difference between Saturday and Sunday (especially if they didn’t attend preschool every day of the week), I sometimes ignored the weekend pockets. Sometimes, we knew about an event (“Sarah, your birthday party was on Saturday, right? What was the weather on Saturday, do you remember?”). But mostly we used observations that we made right then, so we focused on the days of the school week.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Use a weekly (rather than a monthly) calendar for weather recording with preschoolers. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015}

 

Why it works:

By focusing on Monday through Friday on our winter weather calendar, we can then practice counting within five: an important skill to begin with toddlers and preschoolers. Very young children learn to master the numbers up to five, because they can count them on one hand!

But understanding the idea of the numbers 1-5 is also an important skill for students to master before they work with larger numbers, which they will learn to break apart into the smaller, “friendlier” numbers of 1-5. For example, they will use tools, such as a ten-frame, to see that the number 7 is made up of 5 and 2 more. In fact, adults do this when counting large numbers of objects, or memorizing phone numbers (which are broken into series of 3- and 4-number sections, not by accident). So really understanding the meaning of the numbers 1-5 is a foundation for work with bigger numbers when they are four and five years old.

 

The Daily Weather Report

What to do:

As a preschool teacher, I taught in a co-op, where parents helped out with some of the daily tasks of running the school. The classes with 2- and 3-year-olds had two helping parents; the 3- and 4-year-old classes had one helper. If your parent was a helper that day (and everyone’s parent helped), you were the Weather Reporter for the day. {If you don’t have a co-op, or you are doing this in your homeschool, you can set up a rotating schedule for this job.}

We would all sing the “What is the Weather?” song, as the Weather Reporter(s) looked out the nearby classroom window, to decide what the weather was that day:

What is the Weather? {sung to “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Short’nin’ Bread”}

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

 

The Weather Reporters then either chose from a selection of pre-made weather symbols (that fit inside each pocket), or drew the weather symbol on the chart (when we used a hand-made version). Once the Weather Reporters came back to the circle and reported their findings, we finished the song:

Jesse says it’s sunny, sunny, sunny.

Jesse says it’s sunny {clap} today.

What a good job, job, job,

What a good job Jesse did!

 

I will not be lying if I told you that sometimes observing the weather took a looooonnnnggg time! If a child had a hard time doing this task (which often happens with the littlest ones), buddying up helped. Sometimes we would need to narrow down the choices for kids (“Is it cold or hot today?”) Focusing on one type of weather observation (sunny/cloudy, hot/warm/cold, etc) often helped the youngest children. This also helped later when we began to sort our observations.

 

 

Why it works:

When children are very young, our goal in science, and in all things, is to get them to LOOK. The patterned and predictable nature of a calendar routine helps define for little ones what observation looks, sounds and feels like. The song routine helps them to develop the content specific vocabulary around weather that helps them later ask and answer questions about the weather.

The Weekly Weather Report

What to do:

After a week of weather watching, my kids had between 5 and 7 weather observations on their weekly weather calendar. The Class Mathematician (a class “job” that I used in grades pK through 3, for attendance, calendar work, number line work… any time we needed to count anything) would remove the weather symbols from the calendar, and sort them so that like symbols were grouped together. {Note: Velcro or magnet dots on the backs of the cards enable you to use your felt board or white board as a place to sort.} Once sorted, we would chorally count how many were in each group.

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Make use of a classroom window to make weather observations in the winter months. {Photo credit: (c) Glenn Beltz, 2014 via Creative Commons}

 

Why it works:

Before children learn that a numeral matches a number name, and matches a quantity, they learn how to match one object with another: they put one plate next to each chair, one napkin on each plate, and one spoon on each napkin, while setting the table for snack. They also learn how to visually discriminate among objects, and match like objects with like objects. This 1:1 correspondence is an important concept that lays the foundation for understanding the meaning of numbers later on. Because we are limiting our observations to seven, it is easy for little ones to count the cards in each category, as the quantity will be a number within five.

What is “sunny?”

What to do:

As we studied new weather words, we began creating posters for each word. I used large butcher paper or chart paper, which I hung on an easel near our meeting area. An ongoing center in my classroom was the magazine center, where (in this case) students would be looking for pictures that show what sunny looks like. These pictures, plus students’ own drawings and mini-paintings, would be glued to the poster. Every morning, during the weather calendar, we would talk about the poster, and ask, “What does sunny weather do to the environment?” Children would use their own work to describe the effects of sunny weather on the environment: grass grows, snow melts, clothes dry, etc.

When we finished discussing a weather term, I laminated the poster and hung it on the wall as a reference tool for students.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Let children express understanding of weather words in many ways. {Photo credit bberlin2015, 2010 via Creative Commons}

Why it works:

I like to tie language and vocabulary into all my teaching, because I want students to talk like scientists and mathematicians. Part of the process for little children is to connect words, images and the real world together, to build the vocabulary understanding in the child’s mind.

A child’s understanding of a concept is called schema. In the beginning, they have relatively little understanding of a concept (“I see a sun. It is sunny.”). With each exposure to the idea, they begin to build understanding of the idea. Sometimes, their schema contains errors or misconceptions. One thing I often had to clarify is the difference between “sunny” and “warm.” Children would see the bright sun in January and say it was “warm” outside, or see snow on the ground, on a sunny winter day, and say it was snowy. Taking kids outside for a brief nature walk on a sunny winter day, or having them look closely at where the snow was (“Is the snow on the ground? Or is it in the air?”), were needed to clarify this misconception. The iterative process of researching, visualizing and discussing the relationship between weather and the environment helps refine the child’s schema, or conceptual framework, related to weather.

Preschool Weather Observations Yield Mighty Learning Results

Weather routines do much more than give kids a chance to check the weather. As we’ve seen, with a proper focus, they can be a way to get daily practice with important grade-level ideas in science and mathematics. They also provide opportunity for students to discourse about their learning.

So let’s dust off those pocket charts and get ready for some weather reporting!

Weather – Watching Materials for Your Classroom

I’ve gathered some helpful materials for weather-watching and weather studies with preschoolers, all in one place. Click to order directly from this page.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Poem in My Pocket: Winter PreK-1 ($13.99 at Barnes & Noble)

 

Poetry + pocket charts = lively literacy lessons! Each book features five original poems. For each poem, the book provides word and picture cards designed for use in pocket charts, and much more! This Volume, “Winter,” is a perfect accompaniment to your winter weather observations.

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

COMPLETE Calendar & Weather Pocket Chart ($36.99 at Barnes & Noble)

Complete calendar and weather study pocket chart, with date cards, months of the year and days of the week, weather symbols, and more!

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Emma’s Cold Day ($1.99 at Barnes & Noble)

In her latest escapade, Emma is one game hen with a big problem. It’s the middle of winter and the chicken coop is freezing. Learn about how farm animals stay warm in the winter in this zany tale of Emma, an adventurous chicken, in this award-winning children’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NEW Amphibian Nature Study — and a Spring Give-away!

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Spring showers have meant the arrival of amphibians in Connecticut. See our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a blog post on the study of amphibians, emphasizing survey as an ecological study technique, and the use of approximate measures when recording observations of animals in the field.

See “Studying Amphibians in the Field: Using Approximate Measures” for more information, and a spring give-away of two great e-Books with science journaling resources and nature study ideas.

Or enter using the Rafflecopter form, below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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The Mathematics of the Natural World, Part 1: Attribute Patterns

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I have always been a lover of numbers. Math and science just go together so wonderfully. To me, the idea that most natural phenomena (population growth, diffusion, cell division, plant leaf arrangement, a beautiful vista…) could be explained by a simple mathematical formula or idea, is just mind-boggling and reassuring, at the same time.

This post will provide you, the teacher, with some definitions, establish the relevance of some mathematical ideas to the natural world, and share links to some online resources that will help you plan math connections to your winter study of patterns in nature.

Mathematics in Nature — An Overview

We will review, in brief, a number of mathematical principles in this blog, over the next several weeks. In each post, the concept will be defined, in mathematical terms, then explained as it relates to the natural world. I will share some real-life examples, and then provide helpful links to some classroom tasks to reinforce the idea.

  • patterns
  • order & magnitude
  • symmetry
  • scale & proportion
  • Fibonacci numbers
  • fractals
  • The “Golden Ratio”
  • tessellations

Patterns in the Natural World

When we think of teaching patterns to students, our first thought is usually those patterns we named with letters, back in kindergarten and first grade:

ABABAB…

ABCABCABC…

AABBABAAABBABA…

and so on…

In reality, there is much more to the mathematical idea of patternation than this. There are actually three major types of patterns, classified by the basis for the pattern:

  1. Logical patterns
  2. Numerical patterns
  3. Language patterns

All three types can be studied via your science and nature study work, as we will see today.

Logical Patterns

Logical patterns are conceptual patterns based on meaning. There are two main types of logical patterns: attribute patterns and order patterns. Today we will talk about attribute patterns.

Attribute patterns

Children learn, at a very early age, that objects in the real world have qualities, or attributes, some of which can be directly observed (size, shape, color), others which can be determined by the use of simple tools or tests (e.g., floaters and sinkers, magnetism, etc.). When children sort objects into groups based on like attributes, or classify objects into identified groups, they are using attribute patterns as the basis for their work.

Here’s a real-world example of these two types of patterns, based on my son’s homeschool library and room organization. I know that it is easier for children to find things if there is system to organizing them. I have used two different systems over the years, in classroom and homeschool, both successfully. One involves more on my part, one more of the child’s thinking.

Scenario 1: Pre-Determined Classification System (most common)

Before the start of the year, I organize the classroom or homeschool library according to pre-determined categories, based on past experience and curricular needs, label the shelves or explain the system, and guide students to replace materials in the proper category through classification. This is likely the same system most parents use to help kids organize their bedrooms.

I do this based on several attributes, some observable, some based on purpose (not observable). How do you think I organized the two areas in the photos, below?

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Read below for the criteria by which we sorted my son’s homeschool resources.

Here were our categories, based on use:

  • Encyclopedias and Reference Books (1)
  • History Books (2)
  • Today’s Materials (3)
  • Hats (4)
  • Notebooks (6)
  • Science Books (5)
  • Soccer Stuff (7)

Here is another example, using more obvious attributes…

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Sorting books based on more obvious attributes.

Scenario 2: Student-originated Organization System (less common)

In some cases, I let the students organize belongings, then tell me their criteria for arranging them. This is the skill of categorization, the flip-side of classification.This requires the adult to let go of the process, and accept the students’ system of organization.

When we did this with the classroom library, it entailed a huge mess (at first), lots of argument, and some rather clever, kid-friendly categories. This is the system my two youngest boys have employed when making sense out of about a million LEGO pieces, as below. (NOTE: My middle son employed a label maker and made category labels for the compartments of an inexpensive hardware storage box):

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencsestrategies.com

Form and functionality help the LEGO builder sort bricks.

 

 

 

 

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Kindergartners sort and categorize seeds, providing their own categories.

***There’s Still Time!***

Don’t forget about the Mid-Winter Give-away

Click over for more details on how to enter!

 

 

 

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Working with Analogies: The Analogies Center

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Working with analogies www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Classroom Instruction That Works, $22.80 at Barnes & Noble

Researchers have determined that strategies that have students looking for similarities and differences between and among items result in some of the greatest performance gains (Classroom Instruction That Works, Dean, et al, 2013). Among the ways that students can look at similarities and differences is through creating and explaining analogies.  This blog post will explain what analogies are, how they reveal a deep understanding in students, and some ways to help incorporate working with analogies into independent practice opportunities throughout your curriculum.

What is an Analogy?

An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier to understand. In an analogy, the student must determine the way in which two things are related, and extend the comparison to two additional items similarly related. Those of us who have taken the SAT are familiar with this device:

 

Water:snow::lava:_____

This device is customarily read, “Water is to snow as lava is to ____.” This means that water and snow are related to one another, in the same way that lava and _____ are related. In order to accurately complete the analogy, the student must first determine the specific relationship between water and snow, and then apply that to lava.

The Bridge Map: A Thinking Map ®

We know that all bodies of information, and all thought processes, have their own “shape.” That is to say, there is a pictorial way to represent ideas, processes and functions that is not constrained by words, and is easier for learners of all ages to understand. Not only are these graphical representations easier to comprehend, but they also instruct the student regarding the overall structure of the information relayed. David Hyerle developed Thinking Maps ® as a way to simplify the graphical way that learners represent different cognitive processes. In his system, there are only eight “maps” needed to explain the different thought processes that humans use to process information.

Analogies www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Representing an analogy using a bridge map.

When creating and extending analogies, students could use the traditional device with which we adult test-takers are familiar, but the device requires that the learner is a reader, and, therefore, excludes its use by young children, second language learners, or struggling readers. A non-linguistic way to accomplish the same thing is the bridge map.

Analogies www.simplesciencestrategies.com

An extended version of the same bridge map.

The bridge map, extended, can be viewed at right.


Once students see two pairs of items, they can determine the relationship between items in each pair, which is represented by the line between the items:

 

“Water is the liquid form of snow, as lava is the liquid form of rock…”

Using Bridge Maps in a Learning Center

There are four main ways that students can work with bridge maps in an independent learning center. Using a combination of all the ways ensures that students understand the entire concept of analogies.

  1. What’s My Rule?
  2. Complete the Analogy
  3. Extend the Analogy
  4. Create an Analogy

For illustration purposes, let’s use something easy to understand, geometric figures, to explain these four different learning tasks.

 

The Basic Learning Center Design

I always like to use a chunk of bulletin board space for learning centers, so that students can manipulate items as they work collaboratively. Alternatively, a table top can be used (especially if you are working with realia as the items in the analogous pairs).

Other Materials:

  • A large copy of a bridge map (for bulletin board or table top) [See Note]
  • Photographs, drawings or real objects to use in analogous pairs
  • Index cards or sentence strips with words to use in analogous pairs
  • Blank cards or sentence strips to complete or extend the analogy
  • Markers
  • Student copies of individual bridge map worksheets
  • A finished work basket

NOTE: When creating a frame to be used over and over again in a center, consider reproducing it on heavier paper or cardstock, then laminating it. Use hook and loop dots to attach items to the frame, and store materials in zipper-style plastic bags.

See the diagram, below, for an example of how the basic center layout might look.

Learning centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com

                                                 
Version 1: “What’s My Rule?”

Learning centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com
Students can examine a teacher-prepared bridge map to determine the “rule.”

Use the basic format (shown above). Use photos, realia, or words to complete one bridge map section. Provide sentence strips for students to write the “rule,” or relationship between pairs of items. The relationship between one pair MUST be the same relationship between all pairs in a given map!

 

To check their work, students place their “rule” strip on the horizontal line between pairs. The sentence must be true. If it is, then they check the remaining pairs. If the sentences are all true, then they can conclude that the relationship is one possible “rule” for this set of items.

 

Version 2: “Complete the Analogy”

Bridge map www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Teachers can pre-fill some parts of the bridge map, and students can complete the analogy.

Use the basic format, as before. Use photos, realia, or words to partially fill in one bridge map section. Provide index cards and markers, or images, or sources of images, for students to complete the analogy. If providing images and words, provide a variety, so that some complete the analogy and some don’t, and so that students may visit the center more than once. Then provide blank bridge maps for students to record their work, and state their rule.

 

Hints:

  • Provide resources for students to research the topic
  • Keep sets of related items in labeled baggies for future use

Version 3: “Extend the Analogy”

This example of an analogy center uses real objects instead of word cards. In the example, below, students must correctly determine the “rule” (relationship) between the top and bottom of the bridge map, then use that rule to extend the analogy. NOTE: For this particular example, there is a very specific rule (“If an isosceles triangle is spun around its vertical line of symmetry, you get a cone.”). Watch out for students who only look shallowly at the relationship (e.g., they put a 3D “diamond” under the parallelogram), because they are missing the specific relationship between the top and bottom items (i.e., the 2D form is spun around a line of symmetry, so the resulting 3D form cannot possibly have all those “edges.”).

Provide attribute blocks and 3D geometric figures or real objects of those shapes, to help students to visualize. Then provide materials for them to affix the 3D object to the map. As before, give them the organizer sheet to record their thinking.

Bridge map www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Students can use real objects to complete and extend analogies.

 

Version 4: “Create an Analogy”

In this example, students use real objects from the classroom to create nets, paper models of 3-dimensional objects which, when cut out and folded, form the 3D shapes of the original items. You will also notice that the board space is divided so each group has a portion as a workspace.

Collect a number of classroom items and display them at the center. Provide paper, writing tools and scissors, and allow students to work individually or in pairs to create 2D representations of the objects, or nets. Students create the analogy by mounting the net, over the real object, and stating the rule:  “_____ is the net form of _____.”

Copies of the nets can be provided by teams below each analogous pair, so that their classmates can check the accuracy of their work (i.e., classmates can construct the 3D figures from the nets to determine if they do, in fact, create the shape of the original object).

 

Bridge map centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Students can be given a rule and create the analogy.

 

Other Ideas Using Analogies:

These are just a few ways that analogies can be used in a learning center. Here are a few more… see if you can think of others (the words in bold describe the relationship [“rule”] between the items in italics):

  • Hardware and human joints: “An elbow works like a hinge.”
  • Tiles and tessellations: “This design is a tessellation of this tile.”
  • Form and function: “A bird’s tail steers like a plane’s wing flaps.”
  • Organelles and parts of a factory: “The mitochondria work as the cell’s power plants.”
  • Seed dispersal and package transport: “Dandelion seeds move like air drops from a plane.”

 

Next Steps… and Sharing!

Please do try out analogies in your classroom. And share your ideas via our Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Happy analogies!

 

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As promised, the printable copy of the Winter Newsletter is (finally!) here, after holidays, family illnesses and snowstorms. This issue focuses on the mathematics of the natural world – patterns, designs, trends, and the measurement of all things natural. There … Continue reading

Winter Nature Walk: Looking for Patterns (Winter Study 1)

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There’s nothing like a nice nature walk to help you gather new ideas for future nature studies. We have had an unusually warm December, and took the opportunity to take a great, long walk with with the dog, to see what is happening in the world around us, to clear the indoor cobwebs from our heads, and to just enjoy the outside air.  Here are the potential nature study topics that our walk generated:

All Kinds of Patterns

[by Kim M. Bennett]

Stone Walls

Here in New England, stone walls are as ubiquitous as sandy beaches are on the seashore. Geologists at the University of Connecticut study the patterns of stone walls in the Northeastern United States, because they teach us about the underlying bedrock upon which are towns and villages are built. Farmers of the early colonies could only move the glacial rubble so far, so the patterns of the rubble they could move tell about the patterns of the glaciers that formed the rubble.

Geology Patterns in Connecticut

$16.95 at Barnes & Noble

A few years back, we read Stone Wall Secrets, by Robert M. Thorson, a fictional account of a young boy, and the stories his father tells him about the natural history of his farm, as they sit upon the stone wall that surrounds it. I bought a teacher’s guide  to accompany a study of the geology of Connecticut several years back.

Connections: Geology, mineral cycle, weathering, Ice Age

An Ecological study of moss and lichens

There is an old belief that moss grows more heavily on the north sides of trees. As we walked, my husband even quoted this little gem. I remember that some of my college companions conducted an ecological study of this, to determine if it was true or not. I can’t recall! But it would be a fun thing to study, and easy for the winter, since moss stays so green all winter, here.

Connections: Ecology, forest biomes, mosses & lichens, population studies

Fractals: the math of natural patterns

Have you ever doodled in your notebook, creating branching patterns that branch again, then branch at the branches, and so on, and so on, until you run out of paper? If so, you are experimenting with fractals.

The science of fractals has turned observation on its end. It was once believed that, the closer you looked at something, the simpler the design, and, if you could look closely enough, you would see the simple geometric building blocks of every design. What we have found, instead, is that closer looks reveal increasing complex designs that often look like miniature versions of the larger design (think about fern fronds, or the branches on the oak tree in the photo, above, to see what I mean).

We might have to visit our post on “The Mathematics of Nature: Fractals,” adding a study of the branching patterns of oaks in our back woods.

Connections: geometry, number series, drawing, botany

The Patterns of exercise and our bodies

It is easy to stay shut in during cold weather where we live. But getting outside and moving is good for body, mind and spirit. Plus, we can count it as physical education and health, when we homeschool!

There are tons of apps for smart phones that let you log in and measure how many footsteps you take when you walk, how far you hike, your heart rate, and other data. Kids love these apps (heck, I love them!), and graphing is an important part of both math and science instruction. (As an adult, I find it helps me keep on an exercise schedule, if I am monitoring these things).

I downloaded My Fitness Pal to my smart phone — many people I know find it to be the most fun and easiest to use. Maybe my son could graph his parents weight as a function of how many miles of hiking we do this winter? Hmmm…

Connections: health, fitness, exercise, anatomy, graphing

Flowering schedules

Garden journal imageI saw this great little gardening journal template in Microsoft Word. It had places for notes, and photos, and lists (ooohhh… I love lists…). And a little section at the beginning of each month, where you record what plants are blooming.

What a great year-long idea for a child’s nature notebook!

We were very surprised to find the native witchhazel still in bloom (it peaks at the end of October here). At the end of January, some species crocus might bloom, if the weather is right. Then February can bring in some daffodils, plus the chamaecyparis. Before the peak bloom season, it might be a great time to start putting together a monthly bloom-time journal, to see patterns in when different types of plants bloom in your region.

[PS – Our seed catalogs started arriving last week. We’re very excited!]

Connections: gardening, diagrams, notebooking/journaling, botany

weather watching

We have always had an assortment of weather-watching equipment at the ready: an outdoor thermometer that looks beautiful and makes my husband very happy; a little rain gauge/weather vane that we fastened onto the porch support; rain barrels and other assorted rain measuring devices. These were fascinating for all of us. When you plot temperature, air pressure, wind speed or rainfall, you usually see patterns that reflect your region.

One year, my eldest and I used a cloud chart to forecast the weather. It certainly isn’t the long-range forecast we get on the news, but it’s pretty accurate within 24 hours, and fun for kids (and adults). There’s a great cloud chart that can be used to predict the weather available at Weather Forecasting Cloud Chart.

Connections: graphing, prediction, meteorology

Symmetry in nature

In fourth grade geometry, my son is learning about symmetry. This abstract idea is much easier to convey when you use real-life items in the natural world, to demonstrate it.

Take photos of objects and guide your children to draw lines of symmetry on the photos, rather than using 2D line drawings of geometric figures, only.

Connections: geometry, art/drawing

Fibonacci numbers

math wizardry patterns in nature1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55… can you complete the series? And do you know why these numbers are important?

These numbers are Fibonacci numbers, and the string of numbers is called a Fibonacci series. Natural objects are divided into parts represented by these numbers, and beautiful paintings can be divided into sections that represent this series. The number of needles in a bundle of pine needles, the winding of a vine around a pole, the number of scales on a pine cone … all contain Fibonacci numbers.

Read more about Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Proportion, and fractals in Math Wizardry for Kids (a favorite of my eldest son, a real math whiz).

Connections: mathematics, art, proportions

Rainfall

I was just commenting yesterday that we were in the middle of a huge dry season. I spoke too soon! It absolutely poured today. Even yesterday, our hiking was limited on the nature trail because of exceptionally soggy ground.

The woods behind our house has low-lying spots that are the vernal and autumnal nesting spots of spring peepers. We usually start hearing these little fellows around March, around the time when we start to see skunk cabbage poking through the slush and leaf litter. My eldest now serves on the town conservation commission, so he makes it his business to know all about our vernal pools.

All you need to measure rainfall is a flat pan, like a roasting pan or plastic shoebox, and a ruler. To convert between snow in the winter, and water, take the pan inside, let the frozen precipitation melt, and then measure (some people divide by 10, but this varies with the type of snow you get).

Connections: weather, measurement, observation

So What Will We Study?

Tough choices! Here’s what we decided:

  • the patterns of temperature and precipitation (so we can do some graphing)
  • snowflakes
  • using Fibonacci numbers to draw vines
  • predicting the weather through cloud watching

Here’s to a great (and mathematical) winter!

Happy Holidays!

~Kim

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