Designs with Number Patterns

This lesson is adapted from a math activity my own kids did in middle school, where they used colored string to “stitch” their patterns on card stock.  I simplified this lesson for my students (4th grade and up), replacing the needle and thread with markers and a ruler…. 

Have you ever marveled at the fascinating patterns found in nature??  
I like to introduce my students to these patterns by showing real life examples of the *Fibonacci Sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.), a pattern that appears in the spirals of sunflowers (which have 55 clockwise spirals and 34 counterclockwise spirals), pineapples (which have 8 seeds in a clockwise spiral and 13 in a counterclockwise spiral), pine cones, shells, and more.  In this lesson, students use other number patterns to create interesting, symmetrical designs. 

Materials:
  • 12 x12 white construction paper
  • Ruler with raised or beveled edge (to prevent ink from smearing when you move the ruler)
  • Fine point markers in assorted colors, plus black

Directions:
1. Fold your paper in half both directions, then open flat.
2. Place the 5” mark of your ruler on the center point (where your folds cross) and use a black marker to draw a 10” line centered on the fold.  
3. Now turn your ruler and repeat this step on the other fold to make a cross that is centered on your paper. 
4. On each “arm” of the cross, make 5 small marks 1” apart.  Think of the marks closest to the center as being “#1”, then 2, 3, 4, and 5 out to the end of each arm.
5. Use colored markers to connect all the points in each quadrant of your paper that add up to six (ex. 1+5, 2+4, 3+3, 4+2, 5+1).  When one quadant is completed, move on to the next.  You may use the same color for each quadant, or try using a combination of different colors.
As an extension, experiment with other number patterns and see how your design changes. Or, try this same project on thin card stock, stitching with yarn or colored string instead of drawing with markers.

*Fibbonacci (c.1180 – c.1250) was an Italian mathematician from the middle ages who is best known for spreading the use of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system (numerals 0-9 and the idea of place value) and the number pattern which became known as the “Fibonacci Sequence”.  Prior to this time, only Roman numerals were used in Europe!


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11 Responses to Designs with Number Patterns

  1. Robyn January 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Hi! I am an art teacher for a group of homeschool students and constantly try to find way to challenge them! So I was thrilled to come across this project. I have seen it before but honestly never knew how to go about it. I have one question, I do not understand what you mean by using different number patterns to see how the design changes. I would really appreciate you helping me understand that!
    Thanks,
    Robyn

  2. Anonymous January 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Thank you for posting this lesson. I also am a homeschooling parent and am thrilled to find a challenging lesson which covers history, math, and art. Coincidentally, we're studying the middle ages.
    Thank you.
    Linda

  3. Anonymous January 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    I just want to tell you how much I love and appreciate your blog. I teach 5th and 6th graders in a small private school. I am responsible for teaching my students art, and while I am an avid crafter, I am not trained as an artist. I have found so many cool ideas on your site — I can't wait to try them! And I love the math-related ones, like the tessellations and this one. Thank you!!!!

  4. Sherman Unkefer January 25, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    How fascinating! This post is so intriguing! Thanks for sharing this knowledge with us.

  5. TeachKidsArt January 25, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Robyn, some examples of how you could change your design using different number patterns would be to connect each number with “1” on the adjacent axis (i.e. 1+1, 2+1, 3+1, 4+1), or connect each “2” with 2 and 3 on the adjacent axis, etc. By adding more numbers you can make more complex designs. I've kept mine pretty simple since I work mostly with younger kids. I hope that helps!

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