Scaling and Transforming for Design with 7 year-olds

Cut-paper Scalin
Cut-paper Scaling

I’ve been reading on-line conversations lately about scaling and dilation (which are two terms for the same thing, I think). Repeatedly I’ve seeing questions from various people on scaling activities. This confused me at first, not the concept itself, but why did there seem to be such an interest in methods of teaching dilation? Turns out that this idea of proportional change is a key concept to grasp in math, and the nuances of it are tricky to teach. After thinking about it I thought about how artists and designers use scaling all the time, and I mean all the time. So, this week, when I was working with first grade students, I decided that I would present the decorative part of their project as an a math lesson, as an exercise in scaling.

The transformations of two 1.5
The transformations of two 1.5″ x 3″ strips of paper

Each student picked six strips of paper, which were 1.5″ x 3″ each. I told them that these strips are the shape of two squares on top of each other, and I knew that because they are twice as high as they are wide. I don’t think they understood that part, but that was fine. I just wanted them to hear the language, as I think that it conveys a sense of importance. I then showed them how if they lined up the papers so that they made an “L” they could see a square, which they could then cut, as in the photo above. From there we talked about how they could use the square for decoration. Since a plain square is,well, not too exciting I tilted the square for a more interesting look. Next I showed them what happened when the square was cut in half, corner to corner -one cut, two triangles! We then looked at what happened when the triangle was cut in half again, and then again.

Scaling down squares
Scaling down squares

I also showed the students that to make a scaled down square that they had to cut the original square twice, once in both directions. There is something about making “baby squares” that particularly captured their interest.

Scaling down triangles
Scaling down triangles

Baby triangles were a big hit too.

Scaling handsThis is an activity that I’ve taught many times bu it seems to me that, judging from the results, this was the most successful day I’ve had of teaching this kind of embellishment.

Sacling 2

Their project, by the way, was making a book for their animal reports.

Scaling with elephantStudents have done their research, now they’ve made their books, next they will be adding writing to the books. This elephant will eventually be flanked by facts about his habitat and other interesting facts.

Scaling with birdThese students will be able to continue with these embellishments as they complete the rest of the books, I won’t be there for that part, but I think they’ve got the idea and these books well become even more wonderful.

7 thoughts on “Scaling and Transforming for Design with 7 year-olds

    1. I was lucky that the student’s wonderful art teacher worked with the students on the drawings of their animals. The classroom teacher took charge of the research and writing, the art teacher over saw the dreawings, and I worked with the students to make the books. A really rich collaborative project!


    1. Thanks Iris. I’m still learning about what I’m able to do with kids. I’m at a place where I really want to figure out the best way I can spend the time I have with them.
      It’s always wonderful to get a message from the Netherlands!!


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