The other day my daughter asked me, “Mom, do you ever use algebra?” I quickly realized this was a test question. My answer might have some weight when Anna decides whether math assignments at school are worthy of her time or not. Anna’s question also made me re-think about how many times our students do not see the connections between what they are learning in school and the real world. That said – here are short reviews of two new titles that make transparent these connections.
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, pictures by Beth Krommes
(Houghton Mifflin, 2011)
An inspiring connection between math (shapes, geometry, patterns) and nature. Sidman and Krommes reveal how we are surrounded by spirals in nature and how those spirals serve many different purposes. Simple text and detailed illustrations require the young reader or listener (PreK-2nd) to think carefully about what is being said. At the end of the book, there is a clear definition of a spiral (a shape that curls around a center point) with an explanation of the spirals in the illustrations in the book. These last two pages should be shared with children as well. This would be an easy book to read aloud and the images on each page are large enough for a class to view; my recommendation would be to make this part of a math center with a box of objects for students to look through, observe for “swirls” and write or sketch about in response.
Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy
Leedy has written many books about math for children – but most are based on fictional characters and plots. This is a straightforward, non-narrative informational text written in a conversational tone (“Check your face in the mirror and you’ll see a line of symmetry right down the…”). Leedy is respectful of her young audience, challenging them to consider different types of symmetry like “line symmetry” and “rotational symmetry,” but also implementing a layout and design throughout the book that makes these concepts accessible. You might read this aloud to a class (prek-3), but there are lot of details on each page that students would want to return to on their own or in small groups. This would be a great core text for a math center – a text primary grade students would find accessible after listening an adult read at least once; more fluent readers might find it an interesting partner read before engaging in an experiment with symmetry. Leedy has included simple symmetry activities in the back of the book and an additional two page layout explaining concepts in the book further.