Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fibonacci Sequence for Preschoolers

I'm a math nerd (MS in Statistics) and have a love for patterns.  Today I set out to teach my 3-year-olds the Fibonacci sequence, not because I think they'll actually remember it, but because I want to open their eyes to the fun of playing with numbers and discovering patterns in the natural world.  I created a series of activities that are appropriate for Preschoolers (matching, counting, drawing, coloring, gluing) around the topic of the Fibonacci sequence...

I made rods out of our Unifix blocks to represent the start of the Fibonacci sequence, traced them onto paper and asked the girls to match them up (which was easy for them).  Then we went through each one and counted the blocks (as I wrote the number underneath):

Then I asked L if she wanted to see a cool pattern (of course she said 'yes').  This is where I was curious to see if my 38-month-old would be able to grasp the concept behind the sequence (i.e. how the sequence is formed and what comes next)..  I asked her to put the 1 on top of the other 1, and compare it to the number of blue blocks.  I acted very surprised that they were the same length.  Then we put the red 1 on the blue 2 and compared the yellow group of 3.  I saw her eyes light up as she demonstrated to me that they were the same. She even declared that 1+2 is 3 (I was using the 'plus' terminology, she didn't make the association herself).  Then I asked her if she could show me 2+3, and she knew exactly what to do (put the blue blocks on the yellow blocks and compare to the orange ones).

I added a little drama with my expressions and tone (lots of 'wow!' and 'look at that!', and 'I wonder if..', etc..) to make sure she saw this as a game of amazing discovery not just solving math problems, and L really got into it.  She knew exactly what to do next..

After some high-fives, I told her that I bet we could keep going with this pattern, but the paper's not big enough, and I'm not sure we have enough blocks of the same color.  I asked her what she thinks would come next, and she put the orange blocks on top of the green blocks (now there was some guidance, it wasn't all her own idea, but she definitely understood the concept):

She counted the group of 13 blocks.  I'm not sure if my other 3 year old (E) would have been able to do this exercise (she's been doing great with counting lately, but I really don't know because she was only interested in doing her own thing with the Unifix blocks), but I was pretty excited to work with L on our 'cool pattern'.

I told her that this pattern is all over nature, and then showed her this snail's shell drawing to match up her rods to:

I just made the 'shell' pattern quickly by tracing the blocks on some paper.  It was a good challenge for L because she had to visually identify the length of each line even when the lines where in different orientations.

Then I showed her some photos of flowers online and we counted the petals (3,5,8,13, etc..).  She even drew her own petals:

In retrospect, there wasn't really enough room for the correct number of petals (as drawn by a 3-year-old), but L did not seem flustered at all and made a beautiful drawing:

It might have been better to cut out smaller flower petals for gluing, but it still turned out cute.

The final activity, which E participated in as well, was coloring and counting leaves and flowers based on a real plant (called the "sneezewort", which the girls found hilarious):

I drew this one freehand based on a picture I found online, and then made a photocopy.  I thought that by this stage they would be done with 'activities', but both girls told me they wanted to continue (they can't resist scissors and gluesticks!).  They cut out the numbers from the strip:

Then they colored the leaves.  Originally, I thought they'd color one row at a time while counting, but they wanted to color all the leaves at once:

Finally, we got around to counting the leaves in each row (both girls did an excellent job), and pasting the correct numbers:

I guided them along the rows for the counting, but they counted out loud on their own, picked out the correct number, and did the gluing without assistance.  My girls both know the correct orientation of numbers so I'm not sure why they ended up on their sides and upside down when they glued them, but I wanted this to be their own fun project, so I didn't 'fix' any of their work.  I asked the girls to read the numbers in order, and with a puzzled expression said that those numbers sounded really familiar.  "It's the numbers from the blocks" L yelled out.  I wasn't sure she'd make the connection, but this girl remembers everything.

When we were done, and the girls were still playing with their blocks (I don't know where they find the energy!), L announced that she had "so much fun this afternoon with all these activities".  I think that the topic of Fibonacci numbers was really more for Mommy than the kids, but I'm really glad my girls had a good time.  Even if the only thing my kids got out of this is that playing with numbers is fun and gets Mommy pretty excited, and if they enjoyed the quality time we spent together, then I'd still be a happy parent.

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed early math "games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!

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  1. I love the fibonacci sequence. My children learned about it through Vi Hart's videos and the book the Number Devil, but I hadn't thought of such wonderful visuals as you have here.

  2. Wonderful lesson from beginning to end! Good job Mom!

  3. This is so CLEVER!! I am loving it! I am going to try this with my kiddos =-) Thanks for linking up to TGIF. I am featuring this at TGIF today ( Feel free to grab an I was featured button and I look forward to seeing what you link up this week =-)

    1. Thank you so much for featuring me on your link-up.. there are always so many great ideas on there!

  4. What a great lesson, I love it! Great for a variety of ages.Did you watch these videos together (my kids love these!)

  5. Thank you for this simple explanation of the Fibonnaci Sequence! Certainly trying this one with my children!


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