White Paper - Ignite Mathematical Imagination
One of the fundamental ingredients in scientific discovery is imagination. Just ask Einstein. And kids. Incredible experiences exist today that foster scientific imagination, experiences such as science museums, STEM/STEAM clubs, and home science kits. By very nature these experiences provide activities that are hands-on, interactive, and exploration-based. They use creative, colorful, exciting materials that stimulate the mind. They present challenges that draw the mind to new ideas, new questions, new principles, and perhaps even new discoveries.
Mathematics is the birth place of many scientific discoveries. It’s not only the language of science, but is a science itself. However, visit any science focused exhibit and we find a curious absence of interactive mathematical activities that invite exploration and discovery. The thrill of piecing together numeric and geometric concepts that lead to mathematical discoveries is exciting and addictive, and kids exposed to this kind of math experience want more.
Rather than observe the Platonic Solids, kids can experiment with two dimensional and three dimensional tessellations of polygons and “invent” the Platonic Solids themselves. When students discover the limit of equilateral triangles that can meet at the vertex of a polyhedral is five, they immediately want to test that limit. With the right materials, they may just create their own hyperbolic surface, pushing seven triangles to meet at a vertex.
Kids are naturally equipped to think in creative ways about simple mathematical principles. When enticed, this scientific curiosity will lead them to a unique and personal comprehension of those principles, a comprehension that they own and are proud of. For example, kids can piece together rectangles and squares to fill a given rectangular frame, thus measuring and calculating the area of the frame. They can experiment with triangles to fill a given polygonal frame, perhaps even modeling the formula for the area of a regular polygon. But where adults may stop, kids can keep going. Being presented with a frame modeling the area under a curve, kids can easily make the leap to estimate the area using smaller and smaller rectangle widths. Their curiosity will lead them to play with the powerful ideas of infinity and limits, ideas that are the foundations of calculus.
We can ignite the mathematical imagination of children with engaging materials paired with questions that carry their thinking from the simple to the complex. Believe us, they'll just want more.