This is a photo gallery for a math circle called Calculus for Kids, in Cary, NC. Math circles are informal groups where children, their families, and teachers explore math together. This session was our first introduction to making shapes out of shapes. Here are two pieces of supporting materials for the topic:

One-page Math Spark for building models.

One-page sheet with relevant terms

Emma is drawing on (2D) paper and also creating a 3D model out of pipe cleaners, inspired by a 3-dimensional dolphin.

A fictional narrative: “A jellyfish taking a ride on a dolphin.” Check out the evolution of the pipe cleaner model from the photo above.

Maddie is using (1D) pipe cleaners to create a wide, 3D ice cream cone.

Mark is inspired by Wall-E and fractals. He brought a 3D printed fractal to share.

Inside the fractals, there are squares, lines, empty spaces…

Sydney is adapting a story of Frozen recognizing the symmetry of sun.

The song “Let It Go” from “Frozen” popularized fractals:

One of the main characters Elsa is skating; the whole composition is also symmetrical. 3D Elsa is similar to the 2D version.

A 2D balloon with circular patterns made from playdough.

Eli is miming one of the things he likes. Maria’s not getting it.

Eli finally his wish (without breaking it) by writing. Children need to have multiple modes of expression so they can choose, and we must respect their choices.

Maggie and mom Rebecca are gathering 1D pipe cleaners to build a 3D spiral bird’s nest.

“Eggs are growing in the nest…”

And the (potentially) endless spiral reminds us of infinity.

Yash is creating a laser torch project – finding squares, circles, and cylinders in LEGO blocks.

“I built a birthday cake, a sky scrapper with two elevators, and some stairs!”

The stairs represented the counting sequence going up and also down (5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Later, another example of a sequence – 2, 4, 8… – was built as well.

Julie made a 2D spiral glasses using 1D pipe cleaners.

Allison made a ring consisting of a small sphere and a large circle.

How can we make numbers out of ourselves? Each of us is 1 (The One?) – then parent+kid makes 2, or we can use fingers, arms, legs, point out the eyes…

Again, things develop and grow (a bunny ear out of Mark’s head). And number 3 is formed by 3 boys standing in a row.

Could we try making a spiral with all of our hands together?

Let’s make a human square on the body pillows… hmm, 1, 2, 3… seems like we are missing something… we need one more person to make 4 sides!

We need to hold our arms and legs as straight as possible; a square has 4 sides, 4 angles attached to each other, like this.

A cylinder please! Imagine 2 circles and a folded rectangle between, holding us on all sides, as we extend our arms circularly and spread our feet.

Now, this 3D shape tapers nicely from a flat base to a point, the apex there our feet stand together; a cone upside down!

Julie and Allison are making a human pentagon; raising one side of their arms (2 sides) attached by the tips of their fingers, bodies (2 sides) and the ground as the last side.

Yash and Mark are making a 2D roof top by attaching their hands and bodies facing each other. The surface is supplied by the imagination.

Maria: “Grown ups, try this! Feels sooo good.”

Yeah! Jumping on two over-sized cushiony square pillowy mats: so relaxing and comfy!

What have we here on the ceiling? Lots of patterns, as children suddenly point out!

We discovered these hidden math words from our own imaginary creations (hands-on-craft) during the one hour of our math circle. For now, most words are shapes. Let’s see what words appear by the fifth meeting!

Photos by Erin Song, captions by Erin Song and Maria Droujkova, Math Spark by Kalid Azad, Shelley Nash, and Maria Droujkova.

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