Guest post: Math for a budding biologist

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Karen Samuel Boley is the education director for Budding Biologist, a science ed company created by parents, for parents. Check out their Kickstarter for an ecological video game.

When we think of the convergence of math and science, we think of engineers designing an airfoil or biologists replicating bacteria. At the elementary school level, we tend to picture basic quantities: How much rain fell last month? How high did we build the block tower? It can be difficult to imagine teaching mathematics along with science and going beyond simple measurement.

Mathematical concepts are actually inseparable from science. So inseparable that we use mathematical concepts without even thinking about them. Activities that connect math and science are easy to do in and around your home.

Leaf Symmetry

Symmetry is everywhere in nature. Help your child find the lines of symmetry on leaves, and then try it with animals!

By Ernst Haeckel

Natural objects can also be used to illustrate reflections, rotations, and translations – or flips, turns, and slides. How do you move objects to make patterns and design? Children can find tessellations in nature, whether they are on a pineapple, or made by flipping leaves.

Chemistry uses ratios. If we want to make a larger quantity of a compound, we have to add its ingredients in the same proportion, no matter how much we want to make. To explore ratios, children can help with cooking. If you need one cup of rice to serve two people, how many cups do you need if you want to serve four people?

Many young children are familiar with patterns. You can point to patterns in clothing and ask if your child can figure out what would come next. You can show them patterns on animal skin, scales of a snake, the placement of needles on the branch of a pine tree, veins on a leaf, and even the center of a sunflower.

Ask children where else they can find a pattern. Take them on a pattern hunt outside. Use found objects to make your own patterns!

What would continue this pattern?

Integrating math with science activities will show children the practical and artistic uses for math. Doing so addresses the common complaint, “But I’m never going to USE this for anything!” Imagine your children’s shock when they discover they have been using math all along… and never even knew it!

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