Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Explore the Wing on a Flea: Hands-On Geometry with Picture Books

For months now I have been focusing my children on S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + during some of our longer stretches of time at home. The “T” in this acronym refers to “Think, Read, and Write about Math”. To support my children’s efforts to do just that, I keep our “T”  shelf well-stocked with living math books and related supplies. 

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This past month, The Wing on a Flea was among the books on our “T” shelf, and what fun it was! I just love how Ed Emberly ignites children’s imaginations in
The Wing on a Flea and helps them to begin to see shapes in art and in the world around them.

Each time my children and I read the book, we noticed fun new details in its illustrations and also connected elements within the artwork to those we had focused on in prior Art-n-Nature mini-lessons. The children quickly noticed how Ed Emberly used color, shape, positive space, negative space, etc. to create the simple, yet lively artwork in
The Wing on a Flea . They also found the artwork inspiring. 

One day, when Luke and Nina had a class and Jack and I had some 1:1 time in a hallway nearby, a combo of
The Wing on a Flea and some miniature magnet rods and balls we had brought with us became fodder for fun and learning. 

Jack and I read the book together and, then, I set Jack loose with the rods and balls
. First, he created the shapes in the book, noticing how his created triangle fit perfectly into the triangle on one of the book pages…

…but how his rectangle was too large to do so… 

 … and how he could not create a circle with straight lines, but could substitute a sphere for one. 

When attempting to see if he could make a circle, Jack made an octagon, so we paused his free explorations to review the names and number of sides of a number of polygons not mentioned in The Wing on a Flea . Then, Jack went onto 3-d free explorations. He built “a fence”… 

… and, then, a three-dimensional, roofed structure. 

Another time, after re-reading The Wing on a Flea , I offered my children paper, scissors, stick glue, and foam shapes. Nina, in particular, enjoyed creating her own artwork using triangles, rectangles and circles as inspired by the book. She delighted in narrating her artwork to me and in pointing out how she chose to use each basic shape. 

Simple? Yes. Engaging? You bet! Worthwhile? I’d absolutely say so.

Art, math, and imagination are all inspired by
The Wing on a Flea. I’d recommend getting ahold of a copy.

I'd also recommend getting some mini-magnet rods and balls, a long-time favorite here.  I'd love to offer a link to where to get then, but since we bought ours from a Montessori supplier going-out-of-business sale years and have never been able to find any like it since, I cannot.  The closest thing I've found are Goobi, but they are not quite the same.  So, if you know of wooden ones like ours, please do let me know where we might get more.  Thanks!

What are some of your favorite math-related picture books? Have any inspired fun activities for your children?


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