Monday, August 20, 2012

Found Math

It's been over five months since I pretended I was Tana Hoban, the photographer who found math everywhere with her camera and turned the pictures into wonderful books for children.  Since then our eyes have been WIDE open, finding math just about everywhere we look. The more math we see, the better we become at finding it; the more math we find, the better we are at understanding it.

As my six (now seven) year old and I traveled around town this spring we found lots of shapes and patterns, parallel and intersecting lines, even spirals.  It's been your basic geometry kind of math, but we've had some incredible conversations about what we see and find. 

Lately, though, our math eyes have become remarkably more advanced.  For example, my daughter saw a tetrahedron in ropes staked into the ground, steadying a young tree.   I started the spiral inquiry, but she's the one that started seeing them everywhere we went, even places we go to regularly.  She still notices spirals all the time.  Recently, she found math in the most prosaic of circumstances...a moment of recursion in the restroom mirrors (one on each wall) at a local grocery store.   I guess math is everywhere!

As for me, my eyes have very recently been opened to stars.  I would have never recognized this particular star for what it is without the last week of exploration and inquiry under my belt.  There are actually at least four different kinds of stars in this picture.

And, here's an 8 star I also found today.

The stars and the rest of the photos are from our trip to the zoo and botanical gardens.  My daughter found some flowers that had dropped to the ground and shouted over to me, "Mama, look!  These have five petals!  A Fibonacci number!"

These circles were near the carousel at the zoo.  I love it!  And, that reminds me that, although it was impossible to get a picture of it, the carousel platform was round on the outside, but actually created out of twelve trapezoidal sections leaving an interesting hole in the middle -- a dodecagon!  Geez, I was really impressed with myself for seeing that one.

In the botanical gardens we found all sorts of curves in hidden places...

And some lovely limestone spirals...

I'm not sure what this is, but it has a Celtic-y knot-work quality.  Maybe it's a frieze pattern?

I can't remember where I saw a picture of something like this or even what it's called, but it seems vaguely math-y to me.  The gist of what I read was that there are some basic ways that wind or water create patterns like this on the surface of the earth.  This particular pattern-ish design is carved, though.

Oh, and we can't forget symmetry.  This one has both rotations and reflections.

I love the peaceful balance in this little fountain.

What kind of math have you found recently?  Tweet a picture of it to me @mathinyourfeet if you want!  Let's call the hashtag #foundmath.  Can't wait to see what you find!

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