Today I am sharing some books to combine math with nature. Now as a math teacher I know the importance of seeing math everywhere. It allows the student to really see why mathematics was invented. People needed to understand the world around them and mathematics helped them do this.
The first obvious lessons involve recognizing shapes all around. This is easy to do on an outdoor adventure/nature walk. Depending on the age of the student, have an appropriate list of shapes--both two- and three-dimensional ones. Make sure to introduce what each shape is ahead of time. The next obvious thing to do is to look for patterns. Several of the books I am sharing today will help with this as well.
The first book, Swirl by Swirl Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman. This book does not really have math in it, but recognizes the beautiful spirals in nature. Combined with other lessons, it will fit in nicely. This book is nice because it shows animals sleeping in spiral shapes and not just the typical spirals one thinks of.
The second book goes nicely with the first. Growing Patterns Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell. This book is a lovely introduction to the Fibonacci Numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... The pattern to the Fibonacci Numbers is to add the two previous numbers to get the next one. The amazing thing about Fibonacci Numbers is how they seem to appear in nature over and over. Campbell uses photographs to show this in many situations. At the end of the book there is a short expansion page with information about Leonardo Fibonacci, the mathematician as well as other topics that often are discussed with these wonderful numbers including the golden ratio and the golden spiral. For older students it would be very easy to expand on these with minor research.
The third book, Recognizing Pattern in Nature by Tony Hyland, is about a class who visit a camp in the woods and their explorations with nature and patterns. It is actual activities and problems to do with them. It of course ends with an activity on Fibonacci. All three of these books tie in nicely together. This one is better for grade school children versus preschool, but can be altered for younger children.
The final book is Right in Your Own Backyard: Nature Math published by Time Life for Children as part of the I Love Math series. This book is for older children (grades 1-4 I would guess), so we did not spend much time with it. It includes lessons on estimating large numbers, classifying, patterns, shapes and lines, charts and measurements, symmetry, deductive reasoning, time, and operations (addition, subtraction and multiplication). The book has beautiful photographs with each lesson and really brings the concepts down to the level of the child.
There are also many ideas for activities on line. Here are a few I found.
- PBS Teacher Source has an array for grades 3-12.
- Creative STAR Learning Company has many a long list of different lessons for Math Outdoors
- The Franklin Institute has a great pdf you can download.
- NALD.ca also has a great pdf to download.