Grade 6 Math and the Tessellations of Life

Alright, if you made it past the title to the text – I thank you.  I was musing (babbling incoherently as my partner calls it) last night about math.  We were helping our 11 year old with math –  a humbling experience for an adult.  He is a bright spark but has some challenges with math.  I can see now that math is not taught for kids to actually figure it out.  If you try to understand the logic behind how math is taught it seems a bit absurd.  I mean, shouldn’t we be teaching math in a way that helps kids understand the big picture first and start to develop some intuition? Okay, back to the most bizarre title for a blog:  As I said, I was musing about math late into the night and how we need to teach math so that kids realize that it really is about taking some funky shape and learning about all the ways we can fill, divide, analyze, dissect, etc. that space.  I then starting thinking about how, really, all shapes are 360 degrees.  I mean even a triangle, and in fact any polygon has 360 degrees on its exterior angles. Shouldn’t kids learn to be absolutely fascinated with this fact!  I started looking at life so differently last night.  I kept seeing repeating patterns of 360 degrees everywhere!  These repeating patterns of 360 degrees are called Tessellations.  Tessella is Latin for small square. Escher was pure genius with putting this to paper. Okay, I am getting to my point… It is to say that if all polygons are 360 degrees, then all natural shapes have a start and a finish at the same point. It is life!  Life is a polygon!  You start as some “star stuff” (Carl Sagan quote) form into a lumpy human and then go back to start stuff.  Even my beloved waves travel 360 degrees: So, in summary: let’s teach math from the perspective of inspiring wonder and intuition and realize that all of life is one big lumpy circle.  We can fight it as much as we like but in the end, we finish back where we started – star stuff.

Brett

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