Friday, March 27, 2015

Fibonacci -- Italian Mathematician

Born about 1170, Leonardo Pisano or Leonardo of Pisa or Leonardo Bonacci or Leonardo Fibonacci, is one of the most well known Italian mathematicians. Although it is believed he was never known as Fibonacci during his life. Since Hazel and I have been exploring Italy this month, I thought I would share an Italian mathematician as well. He was educated in North Africa where his father, Guilielmo, was a diplomat. Fibonacci introduced Europe to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system as well as what is now called the Fibonacci Sequence (although it was discovered earlier in India). The Fibonacci Sequence or Fibonacci Numbers are probably what Leonardo is best known for. They are easy enough numbers that young children can pick it up. There are many great books about Fibonacci and his numbers available that are appropriate for Hazel. Here are some we found at the library.

The first book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Aganese is a book about his life and really his childhood. The next book is a favorite of Hazel's, The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is a fun book that demonstrates the original problem that brought Leonardo to the Fibonacci sequence. The problem says, "A certain man put a pair of rabbits in a place surrounded on all sides by a wall. How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from that pair in a year if it is supposed that every month each pair begets a new pair which from the second month on becomes productive?" Hazel loves counting the rabbits in the book. It literally has the pages as a calendar with a picture of the rabbits for each month. The next books bring us to how we can find the Fibonacci numbers in nature. I wrote a lesson about four of them previously. The final book is a fun cook book to tie into math. It has a "recipe" to make Fibonacci sticks (skewers with certain numbers of fruit on them). A simple Fibonacci spiral often seen in nature can be drawn using graph paper. I adapted the activity from Sponges, Worms and Mollusks by Colleen Kessler, and you can download it here. You can use the graph paper I provided (especially with younger children) or use any other size.
I also provide an answer graph here and see it above. Once the spiral is drawn compare it to things in nature. I provided some pictures in case you do not have real items similar to this bromelia pictured below.

"Bromelia" by Grupo Firenze - FIAP 2008 - C:\Fibonacci. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The Fibonacci sequence are the numbers 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,... The next number is found by adding the previous two terms together.These numbers are seen throughout math, science and even the stock market.

Camposanto monumentale di Pisa - Leonardo Fibonacci - 002
Statue in Monumental Cemetery in Pisa By Stefano Stabile 
(Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Fibonacci did other things in mathematics, but this is the thing for which he was most famous. The other mathematics will involve higher math as well. I hope you will join us next week as we further our exploration on Italy.


For more multicultural mathematics posts check out: