Saturday, March 29, 2014

Grid Art, Patterns & #tmwyk

Math related conversations with my 8 year old tend to pop up unexpectedly. These are often around something she's making, and are often a gorgeous little gem of a surprise. Today was no different.

I found her creating a grid of tape on top of a piece of origami paper. She was coloring it in when she said, "You know, mama, patterns don't necessarily have to be colors in order."

Oh my gosh!

Me: What do you mean by that?

As you can see from the picture, below, she was coloring the whole page somewhat randomly, sometimes following the columns down, sometimes not. 

Her: Well, the colors don't have to be regular, they just need to be in the windows."

Me: You mean the windows are the places where the tape is not covering the paper, that's what you're looking at? It doesn't matter what color windows are, just that they're colored in?

Her: Yeah.

So here I pause to do a happy dance. My biggest discontent around patterns is that many kids grow into adults who think that "patterns" are only linear repetitions of colors. It is clear she has not internalized that particular reality.  The other reason I'm happy is that Prof. Triangleman once said to me:
"Math is when you say exactly what it is you want to pay attention to, focus only on that attribute and ignore everything else."
She was doing this!  Her pattern has 'windows' that are colored in, but the pattern is not defined by the colors themselves. She was consciously creating a pattern of windows (spaces between!) and consciously excluding the colors. I am thrilled to have caught a glimpse of this multi-layered attention in action.

This really goes to show you that it's worthwhile to keep your ears open while kid is focused on making or building something.  Even if it's after the fact, ask your kids to tell you about what they did, even if it doesn't look like much.  I mean, just look at the taped/colored piece again. It's pretty much a bunch of scribbles and it'd be super easy to pass it over, to think it was nothing special. In reality, though, there was so much thinking going on while she worked.

Here's what the piece looked like when she took the tape off:

Her: Oh.

Me: You seem surprised. Did that not turn out the way you expected?

Her: Why do you sound like a journalist?

1 comment:

  1. This is pretty sophisticated, because creating randomness on purpose is difficult. So she was:
    - focusing on the regular spatial (shape) pattern of "windows"
    - making colors look irregular on purpose
    - explaining both spatial similarities and color differences



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