Whether charting cold weather or creating snowflakes, you'll find that math comes alive in wintry explorations.
There's something about snow that's irresistibly compelling to kids. Whether you live in an area that sees lots of snow or one that never feels a flake, you and your students can enjoy the fun and fascination of mathematical snowflake explorations.
It's great to have an educational justification for running outside when the flakes start falling! Here are several ways to capture and preserve the details of real snowflakes for classroom study:
The next best thing to being there -- or maybe even better -- is to plunge into the world of snowflake photographs. (See links at the end of this article.) We've all heard that no two snowflakes are alike, but can students find ways in which two or more snowflakes are similar and different? Can they devise a simple system for categorizing the snowflakes they are studying?
After students have had a chance to consider their own ideas for categorizing snowflakes, see if they can categorize an assortment of snowflake photographs using a snowflake chart. For a printable snowflake chart and descriptions of categories, visit the Guide to Snowflakes at the SnowCrystal site.
For each activity, students first should make a prediction, then count or measure to test their prediction. Older students also might graph the class's findings and/or determine the mean, median, mode, and range of data.
Create winter-themed glyphs -- decorating the outlines of snowmen, mittens, or penguins -- to communicate information using categories and legends that you provide or that the class agrees on. For example, on a snowman glyph, the number of buttons could indicate the student's age or number of people in the student's family. The color of the snowman's scarf could indicate birth month. The style of hat could indicate a preference for fiction or non-fiction books.
After collecting data, graph and analyze the results. For survey data, you might compare responses of boys and girls, different grade levels, or adults and children. Here are some possible winter-themed survey ideas:
Home Energy Conservation Data
Winter Weather Data
At weather sites, you can find local forecasts, recent weather data, and weather data for any other location you and your students might like to compare with your own. Just type in a zip code or city name of interest.
Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears
Supported by an NSF grant, this online magazine for K-5 teachers was launched in March 2008. It has kid-friendly articles as well as lesson ideas and other resources for teachers.
The facts, photos, and activities at Penguins were assembled by kids for kids.
Ice and Snow
These Web pages of Ice and Snow information and activities were written by kids for kids.
National Snow and Ice Data Center
This comprehensive National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site, useful for teacher reference or for older students, includes information on snow and ice as indicators of climate change, snow avalanches, blizzards, historical snow data, the climate of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, glaciers, sea ice, ice sheets, ice shelves, and icebergs.
Online Climate Data Directory from the National Climatic Data Center
The Online Climate Data Directory Web site includes historical data.
Snowflake Activity Sheet
Produced by amazon.com to accompany Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes, this activity sheet includes nice snowflake photos, paper snowflake instructions, a word search puzzle, snowflake Q&A, and more
Article by Wendy Petti
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