The Wide, Wide World of Geometry

As the social studies, art, and music classes in the middle school widen students’ horizons, some of your students may become fascinated with the art, costumes, and customs of other peoples in this and other times. The NCTM Principles and Standards calls for middle school students to be able to “recognize and apply geometric ideas and relationships in areas outside the mathematics classroom, such as art, science, and everyday life.”

Here are some resources that can help you connect your teaching to geometry past and present.

Culturally Situated Design Tools: Teaching Math through Culture

This applet software is designed to show students how African, African American, Native American, and Latino cultural designs, as well as modern-day graffiti, are based on mathematical principles. Students can use mathematics to re-create existing patterns and structures, or to make their own designs. Standards-based lesson plans, evaluations, and other teaching materials are provided.

Native American Geometry
This web site focuses on Native Americans’ use of the physical, proportional geometry that originates from the simple circle. Aimed at fourth- to ninth-grade teachers, the site is divided into four sections: foundations, anthropology, designs, and education. You will find some 25 relevant web site links and 50 published references.

Ethnomathematics Snapshots
This web site has 12 short descriptions of the influence of mathematics on culturally relevant activities and products from around the world. These include lunar calendars, African counting words, Mozambican methods of laying rectangles, global three-in-a-row games, Native American petroglyphs, Amish quilts, Inca and Maori strip decorations, Inuit drawings, and Angolan sand drawings. Geometrical themes include iteration, recursion, tiling, symmetry, repetition, reflection, and rotation.

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