Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Honeybees and Hexagons

"Honeybees are some of nature’s finest mathematicians. Not only can they calculate angles and comprehend the roundness of the earth, these smart insects build and live in one of the most mathematically efficient architectural designs around: the beehive."

Learn more by viewing the complete Ted Ed lesson by Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson.

After viewing this you may want to check out this book on patterns and shapes in nature.
Bees, Snails, & Peacock Tails: Patterns & Shapes . . . Naturally (2008), written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Steve Jenkins explores surprising and hidden shapes and patterns in nature. Poetic text and cut paper collage illustrations serve as a beautiful vehicle for introducing young readers to these concepts. On a page depicting a snake, a spider hanging from a thread, a snail shell, a bee in flight, an ant, and goose silhouetted against the moon, the text begins this way.
In the day
and the night,
on the land
and in flight

tucked in hollows
of trees,
in the tide pools
and seas,

you'll find patterns and shapes—
from the snakes to the bees!
The next page reveals the genius behind a beehive. This is one of my favorite spreads in the book—not only do I love the text, but I could spend hours staring at the bees on the hive. The layers upon layers of paper used to create the illustration are stunning. The text that accompanies it reads:
Study a beehive
and you will see
the mathematical genius of the bee.

The hexagons
you'll find inside
fit side
by side
by side
by side.
This math is passed
from worker bee
to worker bee!
*Swoon* Beautiful images and beautiful words—what better tools are there to introduce nonfiction to young readers? None that I can think of. 

Franco and Jenkins next explore moths, the stunning symmetry of a spider's web, the dazzling feathers of the male peacock, the familiar V of migrating geese, the teamwork and formation of members of an ant colony, the geometry of animal tracks (a mouse in the snow), the shapes on diamondback snakes, the radial symmetry of sea stars, the shape of a puffed-up puffer fish, and the spirals of a snail shell. The text/poem on the shell page is written in the same spiral form displayed by the shell.

The text ends with the same background as the opening spread, though presented at nightfall with some different animals on the page. There are eyes inside a hole in the tree, sea stars on a rock, a moth flitting in the moonlight, and a spider now resting on a completed web. The text reads:
So there you have it . . . .
I think you'll agree

that creatures
on land,
in the air,
in the sea

make patterns and shapes
quite naturally!
Text ©Betsy Franco. All rights reserved. 
The end matter of the book is titled New Angles on Animals and provides a brief bit of information on each of the animals highlighted in the pages of the text.

While I plan on using this book for math to talk about shapes and patterns, I can also see it being used in science to discuss camouflage and other animal adaptations. This is a gorgeous book in both writing and illustration. I highly recommend it.

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