Nature Follows Math

It takes no more than a few seconds after stepping inside Dave Swanson’s math classroom to become enraptured with math. You’ll find yourself hanging on his every word as he proclaims, “Nature follows math,” and then proceeds to show you a number of amazing examples of math sequences and equations appearing in nature. From the shape of a bee’s honeycomb to the number of petals on a fruit-bearing flower, it all follows math in some way.

Last week 3rd year Upper Elementary students embarked on a 35-day nature driven math journey, with the brassica rapa plant as their vehicle on the adventure. On May 2nd, the students planted the brassica rapa seeds (which were smaller than a pin head) and set them to grow under a plant light. The picture here shows the progress after only five days.

During the course of this lesson, students will log their plant’s growth and changes daily, they will learn plant physiology, they will self-pollinate the plants using dead bees harvested by Mr. Swanson, and they will see the plants flower and bear fruit by the end of 35 days. Not only will they learn botanical lessons, but they’ll apply their math skills to living organisms. Students will use their daily collected data to calculate mean, median, mode, range, percentages and more. The real benefit is that they are growing their own set of data before their eyes and seeing how their math skills apply to a live lesson.

As the data their plants provide changes everyday, so does the course of the work and the lesson. “That’s the way we do math here. It’s different everyday,” said Mr. Swanson.

Milwaukee Montessori School
345 North 95th St, Milwaukee, WI 53226
T: 414.259.0370 F: 414.259.0427
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