Pop Ups with more Pop ups

Pop Ups with more Pop ups

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.

Making Pop-ups in an Accordion Structure

Making Pop-ups in an Accordion Structure

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.

Pop-up Worksop

Pop-up Worksop

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

Overlapping Rotated Squares

Overlapping Rotated Squares

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.

summer squares 3

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.

Tracing Shapes to Create  More Shapes

Tracing Shapes to Create
More Shapes

Students seemed to enjoy creating these images.

summer shapes 2

After they created the outlines they added color.

Colored Shapes

Coloured Shapes

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 …

Building Stars and Hexagons with Regular Rhombuses

Building Stars and Hexagons with Regular Rhombuses

…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.

Making a Hexagon with a Star in the Middle

Making a Hexagon with a Star in the Middle

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.

Paper Hexagon Quilt

Paper Hexagon 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.

A work in progress by one of the couselors

A work in progress by one of the counselors

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

summer geometryI 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.

summer geometry 8

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

summer geometry 2Some drawings were big and bold.

summer geometry 5

Some drawings were delicate and detailed.

summer geometry 4I 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.

summer geometry3

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.

Pieces of Paper

Pieces

This story begins in a teachers’ lunchroom, a couple of years ago, in Upstate NY. I was sitting with some teachers when another member of the staff started talking to a first grade teacher, Mrs. K, about a new math mandate. It was something about using manipulatives to create a variety of shapes. I’m a bit foggy on this part but it seems to me that they were required to use rhombuses (or rhombi, both are correct) for their shape building.

A Rhombus

A Rhombus

Upon being told that she would have to incorporate these manipulatives into her math unit Mrs. K asked if there was any money in the budget for manipulatives. The answer was no.

After school I sought out Mrs. K and showed her some paper-folding and shape transformations that referenced rhombuses. This teacher seemed delighted with what I was showing her. I volunteered to send her something that I thought she might find useful, then went home and created these images for her, which are equilateral triangles that become a rhombus.

screen shot rhombi

I never asked Mrs.K if she used what I sent her. I recognize that what I sent was, unfortunately, not a project. Instead, it was just the bones, the beginning of a project that needed to be developed.  Every so often I’ve revisited these images, wondering what I could do with them. Then a few nights ago Malke, from Indiana, asked me about projects for a family night.

It was late, and we decided to resume the conversation the next day. The next morning, before Malke and I reconnected, I saw this post from Simon Gregg, in France:

I had an Aha! moment. It suddenly came together. I sent off this note to Simon:

Malke, who I included in the conversation, responded with a reference to a beautiful manipulative that I wasn’t familiar with, but which also showed that she immediately recognized what I was getting at with my DIY paper version of manipulatives.

Since Malke seemed to know exactly what I was thinking about I got to work creating the pieces for this activity. I’m pretty happy with how this has developed. It requires triangle paper, and matching paper shapes that can be printed on colorful papers. My thought is that simple, bold shapes can be created in sort of a free form way…

Big Shapes

Big Shapes

…or more challenging shapes can be drawn on to the paper…

Drawn Shapes

Drawn Shapes

…and filled in, while trying to make as few cuts as possible and being mindful about cutting along the lines defined by the triangles.

Filling in drawn shapes

Filling in drawn shapes

So, where can you get these papers to do a do-it-yourself shape building set? Right here. I’ve created a couple of PDF’s to get you started:

Triangle paper and Rhombuses

Make beautiful shapes. Send photos. Thank you.

Addendum: Take a look at Malke’s post on hands-on math: she collected and organized many interesting perspectives. It’s a fabulous piece of writing.  http://mathinyourfeet.blogspot.com/2015/04/some-thoughts-on-hands-on-math-learning.html

Addendum #2 (April 2016)  Malke liked working with smaller rhombuses so I made her this  PDF rhombi with spaces So far she is planning on using them without the triangle grid paper. Here’s a link to some images she’s created as samples for an upcoming project https://www.facebook.com/MathInYourFeet/ rhombusphotos

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