# Fancy Plane Shapes

Second Graders are learning their shapes. What a great age to be composing, decomposing and recomposing.

These images are the final part of the Wallet-Book project that I began with about 66 students earlier this week. After making images that had a value of 100 we moved on to getting up-close and intimate with parallelograms and trapezoids.

Students got strips of these parallelograms, which I had printed on five different colored papers. We looked at the parallelograms and noticed that they were made of two triangles. After separating a triangle, we fit next to a full parallelogram, to see how the two shapes, together, could make a trapezoid.

The kids seemed delighted by this discovery. While most students illustrated this connection with three different images…

…there was one student who took an elegant approach, which was to make just one shape, then label the way it could be broken down into its parts.

Next we moved on to hexagons, rectangles, then, finally, a shape of their own choosing. The kids loved noticing how three parallelograms not only are the parts of a hexagon, but also, that their hexagon has the appearance of a cube drawn in perspective. The toughest shape for the students to make was the rectangle, as this meant that they had to divide a triangle in half, the rotate and reflect the pieces. Not so easy. Try it.

After making the compulsory curriculum shapes the kids went free-form, designing their own creations. My seventy minutes time slot with each class of 22 students just flew by!

Some students made abstractions with the shapes, others created scenes or something recognizable.

Since this was the first time I was doing this project in the classroom, and since I had three classes to work with, I kept changing how I presented the project, getting a better feel each time for better ways to get the kids to interact with the shapes within the time frame I had with them, and within the agenda that needed to be addressed. For each class, though, I kept the curriculum piece at the beginning of my time with the students, ending the class the creative part. I think I’d like to see what happens if I flip that order of working, as perhaps it will let students discover on their own things that I actively try to get them to see.

When we finished, any extra parallelograms were stored in the origami pocket we had made during out last session, looped a humongous rubber band into a hole punched into the front flap, created and ID card for the front, and added some bling, because, well, bling.

The Wallet-folders, by the way, are made from heavy weight 11″ x 17″ paper that has a four-inch fold along the bottom edge, which creates the pockets. There are two 7-inch wide pockets within, and a 3-inch fold-over flap. If you are wondering where I got this awesome paper that is tinted with black, blue, and silver, with a light cast of gold above, well, thank you for wondering. I spray painted the papers (outside, of course, with a mask on) so I could have exactly what I wanted. Yeah, a bit crazy, but that’s what I do.

Here’s a selection of PDFs that I’ve made to use for this project.

rhombus small no spaces

rhombi with space smaller file size

Rhombuses

# Five Days of Summer Workshops with 3rd and 4th Graders

In the summertime, when school is not in session, I’m on my own in terms of deciding on what kinds of projects that I want to teach in workshops. Last week I taught for five days  at the local community center.  My sessions with the kids were 40 minutes long, and although I prepared for 30 rising third and fourth graders, there was no telling how many students would attend each day. I had originally thought I would make a plan for the week, but quickly realized that it was more satisfying to create projects each day based on what I found interesting in the children’s work from the day before.

My own goal for the week was to do explorations with shapes and symmetry.  On Day 1 we made a four-page accordion book and did some cut-&-fold to make pop-ups. The students were amazing paper engineers;  With impressive ease, they created inventive structures.

There were plenty of counselors in the room, and from this very first project, these counselors joined right in with creating their own projects.

I was so impressed with the students’ folding skills that the next day I helped them create an origami pamphlet that contained more pop-ups, as well as some interesting other cut-outs. What turned out to be the most interesting work on Day 2 was how much the kids liked the little bit of rotational symmetry that I encouraged them to do: I gave them each a square of paper, asked them to trace it on to the cover of their book, then rotate it and trace again.

These students like the shapes created by shapes, so the next day I brought in a collections of shapes and asked them to arrange tracings of these shapes on a piece of heavy weight paper, which was folded in half.

Students seemed to enjoy creating these images.

After they created the outlines they added color.

When the coloring was done we folded the paper, and attached some pagesto the fold so that the students had a nice book to take home. The kids seemed to like this project and made some lovely books, but I ended up  feeling like there wasn’t anything particularly interesting going on with this project in terms of explorations of building with shapes. So …

…the next day I brought in colored papers that were printed with rhombuses, as well as some white paper printed with a hexagon shape. Each student filled in their own hexagon with 12 rhombuses.

My plan for this project was to have each student make their own individual hexagon then put them all together on a wall so that it would be reminiscent of a quilt.

Here’s our paper quilt made from 22 hexagons!

The next day, Day 5, was my last day at this program. I liked the engagement with and results of how the students worked with shapes when they were given structure. There’s a balance that I try to honor of providing structure while allowing individual choices. For my last day, then, I decided to give the students a page that I created that is based on the geometry that uses intersecting circles and lines to create patterns.

If you look closely at the photo above you’ll see many different lines and curves overlapping and crisscrossing.

I asked students to look for shapes that they liked, to use the lines that they wanted to use, and to ignore the lines that they did not want. It was interesting to watch how the students worked; I was particularly interested in seeing how some children chose to start looking at designs starting in the center, while other children gravitated to the outside edges first.

Some students filled areas with color, while others were happy to make colorful outlines of shapes.

Some drawings were big and bold.

Some drawings were delicate and detailed.

I think that every one of the teenage counselors sat and made their own designs, right alongside of the students. Actually, I think that my favorite unexpected outcome of the week was how involved the teenagers got with the projects.

This last project of the week was my own personal favorite (though the quilt project runs a really close second). I had never done anything quite like this before with students, and was really surprised to see how much they enjoyed this work, and how differently they each interacted with the lines and curves. This kind of surprise is what’s so great about summertime projects.

# Hexagon via Paper Folding

One of my all-time favorite paper moments was when I learned how to fold a regular hexagon. Many times, with  protractor or compass in hand,  I had tried to draw hexagons, but  they never worked out just right. This post, which features a tutorial page, is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time, but I needed to stumble upon just the right random instant of blog time. Recently, while musing about life, the universe and everything, well it seemed like the right time to finally put these drawings and steps down on paper. After all, the six goes neatly into 42.

Now, if you go ahead and make a hexagon for yourself, which of course you will because who could possibly resist trying this, you might notice a few splendid things. Then again, you might not notice them, so I will point them out.  First, you will notice that a preliminary step towards hexagonism is that you create an equilateral triangle , which is just the first of the many perks of this activity. The second, most extraordinary flash will be when you realize that the intersection of the three folded lines within your triangle is actually the center of the triangle. The reason that this is so remarkable is that this intersection point in no way looks like it’s at the center of the triangle. It just looks wrong as a center, and you might not believe it. But when you bring the tips of the triangle in to meet the intersection, well, let’s just say you will believe.

Just for fun, I decided to include this set of directions, too, because, really, it’s a much more attractive page than the one with all the writing on it. And there are plenty of people who will try it out without reading a thing, so here you have it.

Now after you’ve noticed that you’ve made a big equilateral triangle, there are few more shapes to uncover.  First of all, there are all sorts of little equilateral triangles inside of the hexagon. And if you fold the hexagon in half, well, you will have made an isosceles trapezoid. Now, think back, when is the last time you actually held an isosceles trapezoid in your hands? Next, fold back a third of the trapezoid, and there you have a rhombus. And if you can’t remember what any of these shapes are it’s probably because you never learned to spell them. Really, what it is it with this terminology? Wouldn’t these all these shapes be more memorable if we called them lollipops or kiwis?

A special nod here to Christopher Danielson. math teacherblogger who recently had way too much fun using hexagons in his classroom, so I wanted to add something to the virtual hexagon mix. And I want to acknowledge Steve Morris,  who kept me thinking way too long about the edges and shape of the universe: I no long think that the universe is shaped like a hexagon. That was just silly. Now I think it’s the shape that’s made when hexagons and pentagons are fitted together, -but don’t be looking for a post about that. I think I need to get back to making books. Rectangular books.

starts in the middle

# Things That Start in the Middle

I’ve been thinking about things that start in the middle. Since there’s been a good bit of talk in the news about the Theory of Inflation, aka theBig Bang, being validated I feel encouraged to be thinking about concentric expansions. In the middle of these thoughts, on cue, the phone rang. It was my cousin Pete, who calls me once or twice a year. Great! Just the right person!  I told him what I was thinking about. At first he seemed flummoxed, asking something like,”uh, what do mean? Give me an example.” I said, you know, like snowflakes, or the universe.

Of course, being Pete, he did know what I meant, and what he said next was really delightful. He said that things that start in the center generate other things that start in the center. I had been looking at antique lace doilies, so I could picture exactly what he meant.

I’m so used to thinking exclusively of things that have a linear path -a beginning, middle, and end – that coming up with examples of things that start in the center was, at first, challenging. But once the shift in thinking occurred  it was easier to come up things that followed this paradigm.  Flowers, for instance, start with a barely distinguishable bud…

…which expand and expand and then bloom.  Seeds, too, start from a central point, then send down roots,and send up shoots. And bowls, thrown on a wheel, start with a lump of clay and are formed through pushing out from the center.  And then there’s concentric ripples when a stone is thrown into a pond, and sound waves, too. I am still looking for examples so, when you read this, if anything comes to mind, please tell me in the comments what you’ve come up with.

What got me thinking about starting in the middle was something (hard to remember now…) about wanting to make a book that starts in the middle, and wanting it to be something about the number line…

…which really is not as visually compelling as a snowflake or an orchid. At least not yet.  Now, while I was quietly pondering all this, with my attention focused on the possible similarities between the universe and six-sided snowflakes my daughter called in from the kitchen asserting that six was a really perfect number. What? Was she reading my thoughts? No, she was making breakfast and admiring this cool contraption  that we have which submerges and times eggs for soft-boiling.

Why, I asked her, was six such a good number? She said because it can balance two, three or four. That’s proof enough for me: so, yes, the universe must be a hexagon.