Why take class time to investigate fractals? Granted, they are geometric figures and worthy of study for that reason alone. Moreover, their use in art and other areas connects mathematics to the world outside the textbook, as recommended by the NCTM Connections Standard. But a study of fractals also opens discussion of algorithm, dimension, and iteration, concepts that would be above the middle school level if it weren’t for the possibility of illustrating them visually in fractals.
Cynthia Lanius’ Fractal Unit
A former mathematics teacher created this unit for middle school students. The lessons begin with a discussion of why we study fractals and then provide step-by-step explanations of how to make fractals, first by hand, and then using Java applets. But the unit goes further; it actually explains the properties of fractals in terms that make sense to students and teachers alike. Excellent material!
One of the most comprehensive educational sites on fractals! It includes an illustrated and animated tutorial on the mathematics underlying fractals, examples of applications of fractals, from nature to the Star Trek movies, plus a gallery of images.
Fractal Modeling Tools
These online tools allow users to create images of the Mandelbrot and Julia sets, the Sierpinski gasket, and the Koch snowflake. Go directly to the Fractal Microscope and experiment! Students from middle school through college will be awed by the beauty of the images. As they use the microscope to enlarge any part of a fractal, they can see firsthand the self-similarity of the fractal.
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