How To Do A Homeschool Math Snowflake Unit Study

Back in 2003, I was a burned out private school 3rd — 5th grade teacher. I was starting to wonder if I could take it any longer in a traditional education setting and what other careers I might consider.

And then, Don Tolman, a health and wellness teacher and a brilliant K — 12 educator, came to our school and did a series of seminars. In his seminars, he taught us “living math” starting with nature’s numbers, patterns, and geometric shapes.

I had previously been introduced to these numbers back in 1997 at a used book sale. I picked up David Bergamini’s Time Life hardback, Mathematics. When I flipped open the book, I was introduced to math’s connections with the natural world. It also covered maths found in Ancient Greek and Egyptian architecture, the human body, and beyond. My mind was blown, but, I unfortunately couldn’t find very much more information about the “living math” until Don came to our school and absolutely floored us with his knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the practical use and application of the “living maths”.

After Don’s seminars, I got outdoors everyday after school with camera in hand and my backpack on my back complete with field guides, a journal, coloring utensils, food, and drink. I began to open my eyes to the natural world/Creation around me and really “see” as I had never done before.

When I looked closely at nature’s patterns such as veins in a leaf, the spikes on a caterpillar, I just fell in love with looking for nature’s patterns. It’s an activity, a treasure hunt, that never gets old — really slowing down the pace of life and really “seeing”. And low and behold, such beauty emerges before one’s eyes, all of it which can be described mathematically.

That same winter, I went to the University of Delaware digging deeper and deeper for more “living maths” books. I ended up learning to “see” the maths everywhere in books even if they didn’t speak specifically about it. One of my favorite topics was looking for books on the Chambered nautilus and observing mathematical graphs of experiments about the animals submersive abilities.

The Chambered nautilus is famed for exhibiting the logarithmic or growth spiral. It builds a new chamber each year and moving its cephalopod body forward into that newly made chamber. I was fascinated, as many folks are, by the cross-section of it’s shell revealing the mathematical wonders of it’s internal shell. It’s unlike anything else in the animal kingdom.

While at the university library, I also came upon a book called Snow Crystals by Wilson Bentley (1885 — 1931), a Vermonter, who learned to take photomicrography of snowflakes using an old bellows camera with a microscope hooked up to it. Thankfully, today, there is much more sophisticated equipment used for such purposes as photographing snowflakes.

When I opened up the book, I was completely floored. I turned the pages and saw what real snowflakes look like up close and personal. The detail was mesmerizing, and of course shockingly mathematical.

My favorite snow crystals are the hexagonal plates. Just like the name describes, they’re flat, like a plate, but six-sided. I couldn’t put the book down. I ended up checking it out and bringing it to my classroom of 3rd — 5th graders. They were completely enthralled as I was.

Over the years, I’ve developed an online version of this study of snow crystals called the Geometric Beauty of Snowflakes. It’s a 3-course BUNDLE featuring the life and works of Wilson Bentley, lovingly called by his local fellow Jericho, Vermont residential neighbors, “The Snowflake Man.” The study deep dives into the maths behind the snowflakes, we get into art projects, and of course, paper snowflakes can be made as well.

Click here and get the Math Learning Secrets eGuide with the Geometric Beauty of Snowflakes add-on today while it lasts!

The course bundle includes connections with art, science, literature, geography, and beloved math so that you have plenty of content to cover all of your subjects for as long as you and your kids want to jump down all the lovely learning rabbit trails that you want without a care in the world!

Imagine you and your kids chasing around, like Wilson Bentley, catching snowflakes on frozen black construction paper, holding your breath so as not to melt the flakes, and oohing and ahhing when you see your snowy treasure under a simple magnifying glass. Trust me when I say, this a very satisfying winter blahs over comer’s unit study!

OR, if you live in a warmer climate that either doesn’t get much or any snow, there’s still plenty for your family to do and learn as well. You’ll still be able to look at Wilson’s original snow crystal photography and do fun snowflake art projects galore.

This is a seasonal offer and won’t be available long.

Click here and get the Math Learning Secrets eGuide with the Geometric Beauty of Snowflakes add-on today while it lasts!


Gloria Brooks aka NatureGlo

I help homeschool parents and teachers reform education by transitioning to nature-based student centered education with math and natural science courses.

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