# There’s Math in Them There Mountains!  Spending Time Outside, Exploring Math, and Building Vocabulary

(On Mount Lemmon, Arizona )

Summer brings grandkids, our own kids, nieces, and nephews up to the mountain.  This is the greatest time for kids to explore and enjoy the mountain life. Even we can be kids at heart and enjoy what the mountain has to offer! But what’s that you say? There is math on these mountains?  Of course!

As a mother and a mathematics teacher, I take every opportunity to teach my children about math, even on Mount Lemmon.   Here are a few ideas of how to look at the natural landscape of our beloved sanctuary for the little ones:

Shape Watching on a Nature Walk

1. Small Pine trees are growing all over and some are the right height for young children to see the top of them.  Have them look at the top, looking down, and ask them what they see?  Do they see baby pine cones growing, they are called cones for a reason because cones are shapes.  Also, look at the way the needles are growing, they form a spiral!

2. While you are looking at the Pines, look down below because the Ferns are growing.  Did you know that they grow from unraveling from a spiral? When the leaves stretch out, they are little triangles too!

3. There are many tree stumps around, so take a closer look.  What shape do you see?  We see circles, tree rings. Together, they are concentric circles, like a bullseye.  What if you dropped a rock in the stream, would that make “tree rings”, or concentric circles in the water too?

4. What about when the Common Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)come out?  The parts that we like to call Dandelion wishes are small spheres.  If you look closer, each little part of the white “Dandelion wish” are little parabolas.

Counting on Nature to Teach Us Numbers

1. Let us look at the Richard’s Geraniums (Geranium richardsonii) and Cranesbill (Geranium caespitosum) that will be growing soon.  Count the number of stamen of the flower and count the number of petals on the flower.  Is one double of the other? Is one half of the other? Are they the same?

2. Take a look at the Big Leaf Periwinkle (Vinca major).  Looking at the center, you see a pentagon, then out of that, another pentagon, and then the five petals.  This flower is all about the number five 🙂

3. When the Common Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) start growing, count the number of petals they have.  Do you get an odd or even number of petals?  How many?  What about the flowers on the Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), count the number of petals on one little flower.  Do you get an odd or even number of petals?  How many?

Something to Think About:

These are simple things to open the mind of the child, and the child-like hearted ones we all are, to seeing the mathematics out in Nature.  Even if this takes five minutes to the whole entire day, everyone went outside, explored mathematics, and learned and used new vocabulary. This is a great way to show relevance of learning shapes and numbers because it is out there in our world.  🙂

Also, a many thanks to Frank S. Rose’s work on Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona as it was a great resource to me to finally learn the names of the wonderful plant life we see on Mount Lemmon, AZ.