Strong Minds. Kind Hearts.

Thinking 'outside the box' at LS Math & Art Family Night

Thinking 'outside the box' at LS Math & Art Family Night
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Annual evening combines games and activities that highlight the fun and fascination of mathematics.


Question: What do the Chartres Cathedral, plastic coins, dice, the Chaos Theory and Twizzlers all have in common?

Answer: Together they challenged Lower schoolers to explore the intersections of mathematics and art at Friends Academy's annual Lower School Math & Art Family Night.

Throughout classrooms on the third floor of the Lower School, participating children and their parents navigated nearly a dozen centers that Lower School Math Specialist Brie Kraska and Lower School Art teacher Mary Jo Allegra engineered to help turn mathematics and art into an interdisciplinary journey of creativity and understanding.

In K-2 and 3rd-5th grade centers, students experimented with activities about counting and estimates, to logic and formulas.

Many mathematical activities took the shape of games that students played with their parents or between themselves. A center devoted to weight estimation asked students in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades to make predictions about what might be heavier, a lollipop or Twizzler, and then provided hands-on opportunities with a scale to prove or disprove their hypothesis.

In Allegra's art room, a projected slide of France's famous Chartres Cathedral provided both inspiration and guidance as students worked from a static grid to create dynamic "stained glass" formations. "Math includes geometry, such as shapes and space, not just numbers," Allegra commented in explaining the activity.

Students were asked to use 1/4 and 1/2 fractions and beyond from paper squares to design their tiles. "Children will often gravitate toward symmetrical designs, perhaps because our bodies are built symmetrically," reasoned Allegra. "In this exercise, they learned how a square can be divided with two triangles, or four squares or even smaller units and then arranged into a pattern that is more than a square grid."

As second grader Baileigh Parsons checked the Chartres projection, she unknowingly commented on the irony of the exercise, "You can think outside the box!"

In a nearby classroom, older students pondered the Sierpinski Triangle and the rules of fractal geometry. Students also learned about Benoit Mandlebrot, who in the 1970s, created a new study called the Chaos Theory, after he discovered the unending presence of fractals in nature.

Students were asked to find three versions of iterations by detecting layers of triangles on a handout. "I think it's a theory that the triangles will continue to get smaller as you zoom in," commented one fifth grader, who then set about trying to discover the formula for each triangle. "It must have to do with multiples of three," she surmised.