Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snowflake Symmetry (Geometry Class #2 Part 2, Fall 2010)

This week's math class continued with symmetry...

We read Snowflake Bentley, a Caldecott winning book, that tells the true story of Wilson Bentley, who first captured individual snowflakes on film. We noted that Willie was homeschooled until age 14. Some speculate that Bentley may have been autistic.

Bentley said, "I found that snowflakes were masterpieces of design. No one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted...just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."

Two years ago my husband and I were in Vermont. Driving through Jericho, I noticed a snowflake sign on the "Old Red Mill." We inadvertently discovered the Snowflake Bentley Exhibit with a tiny museum housing Bentley's cameras as well as some of his photos. If you're ever in Jericho, Vermont, be sure to visit! (pictured, left)

Using Bridges materials, my students made their own snowflakes using paper pattern blocks.

After thinking about the meaning of "line of symmetry," we sorted our snowflakes. It took a lot of work to figure out how many lines of symmetry in each! We held a ruler in front of each image so we could imagine where the line(s) might be. One snowflake had rotational symmetry; we will explore that in more depth next week.

As a last, optional, activity, students could make a symmetrical mask. I saw this posted on Mathwire and wanted to use it as an extension of our lesson on "line of symmetry."

If you'd like, try some symmetry activities on-line:

Symmetry Game

Learn About Symmetry

Symmetry Pattern

Cyberchase Symmetry

Symmetry Shape Games

Finish the Symmetry Picture

List of Kids' Symmetry Links

Also, check out this snowflake set. What a fun way to explore tessellations!


  1. I love the snowflake activity that they did! I will have to try this. It's hard for little hands to cut snowflakes but not too hard for arranging and pasting it. It kind of looks like the photos from old fashioned cameras. I own Snowflake Bentley and didn't know he was homeschooled and may have been autistic.

  2. I love the lesson. I did check on the Bridges site, and found their snowflake lesson, but I couldn't find any templates for those patterns the kids are using to create their paste-on snowflake patterns. Did you just make those templates yourself?

  3. Hi Anne,

    I actually didn't know the Bridges snowflake lesson was available on-line. We use the Bridges materials, so my patterns came with it. But you can google search pattern block blacklines and probably find a lot of free downloads.


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