Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hidden Snowflake Math

Math is not always obvious, but "hidden" everywhere in children's play and activities.  Sorting blocks by shape and color during a building session, counting flowers in a pretend floral shop, pouring sand into different sized containers in a sensory bin, setting out the same number of napkins as there are children to help prepare for snack, or measuring the shelves with a piece of string.

A favorite activity of mine when winter rolls around has become tradition in our home and is "hidden" with several math opportunities for kids to discover.

The materials we use are simple:
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Tracing paper (When cutting through several layers, thin paper is easier to work with)
  • Circular object (Like a bowl, or cup)
Our process tends to go like this....

1. Tracing: We use a bowl to trace a desired number of circles on our paper, then cut them out.  The bigger the circle, the bigger the snowflake.
2. Folding: We fold the circles in half, then again, then one more time.  We fold it at least 3 times.

It should look like the shape in the picture above.  Do you see the opportunity here?  We can discuss, halves, and thirds, or quarters, depending on how many times we fold it.

3. Cutting: We let our boys cut designs of their choosing.  We have made snowflakes using only circular cuts, triangular cuts, slits, specific shapes (cut outs that look like a house or rocket ship). 

4. Unfolding:  Watch for smiles and excitement with the end result.  Naturally, symmetry is a topic that comes up at this point. 

5. Experiment: 
  • Fold one circle three times, then fold a second circle four times.  Make the exact same cuts on each one, then unfold and talk about the differences seen between the two.  Try folding less than three times or more than four the next time.  
  • Make cuts only on the folded side of one circle, then make the same cuts on a second circle, but on the "open" side.  Unfold and talk about the differences between the two.

6, Display and enjoy!

If your younger ones are not ready for scissors;
  • Have them add color to the snowflakes before or after cutting them out with crayons, pencils, or paint.
  • Let them work on the unfolding step
  • Supervise their scissor use, even if they just cut it up into tiny little pieces.  Every opportunity to practice is one step closer to mastering this fine motor skill.

Discover the multiple natural opportunities to discuss math with your kids this season while you decorate your space!

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