Monday, May 21, 2012

Math SAVES the day!

This weekend there was a Criminal Minds marathon on, and I was glued to the television. I did take some time to enjoy the warm weather, but otherwise I was in front of my television with my computer on my lap working away at different tasks I had to complete and needed to work on. All the characters on the show are fascinating, but the most fascinating is Reid who has an eidetic memory and is a great asset to the FBI team who profiles serial killers in order to find them. 

The episode in particular that caught my attention was one that included the reference of the Fibonacci sequence. Back in my undergrad, I worked for a leadership spring camp at Brock University (called Youth University). We did many things with students in grades 5-8 for the 2 ½ days they were visiting with us, including high ropes, rock climbing, leadership games/activities, nature walks, etc. One thing in particular that I recall doing (6-8 weeks in a row, 2 camp sessions per week) was making a necklace on our nature walk (usually on the first or second day) representing the Fibonacci sequence through the colours we chose to put on. (For example, there would be one blue bead, then one red bead, then two yellow beads, then three purple beads, then five green beads, etc. to make up the Fibonacci sequence).

What is the Fibonacci sequence you ask? Well, if you don’t know, the Fibonacci sequence is a set of numbers that starts at 1, with each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.

So, we start at 1, and the number before it is 0. Creating the sum 0+1=1 to get the next number; so the first two numbers are 1,1. Then you add, 1+1 to get 2; and if we add 2 the sequence you get: 1,1,2. Then you add, 1+2=3 so we add 3 to the sequence to get 1,1,2,3. Add 2+3=5 to get 1,1,2,3,5; and add 3+5=8 to get 1,1,2,3,5,8 …etc.

Here’s the sequence with no words and you might get it a bit better (if you don’t already):

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…(I think you get the point now…)

Anyway, the point of this whole blog, is the fact that something that we teach in middle or high school CAN really be used in real life. Even something as abstract as the Fibonacci sequence and that it can show up in the simplest of things (sitting and watching a television show, for example). Even if your mind isn’t doing the mathematical equations while watching television, you are aware of it and able to connect with the content that much more. (I even posted a picture of Pascal's Hex (or triangle) which has elements of the Fibonacci sequence in it during my last blog post and didn’t even notice it – although recognized the ‘pattern’ as I called it – because I haven’t reviewed the concept in a long time!)
I think students need to see the relevance of what they learn as an incentive to learn. I know that I sometimes have a hard time sitting in a class where I don’t find relevance to it, so I know the importance of providing students with that incentive to learn – and answering that “why are we learning this” question…and not by answering with the simple answer of “because you have to” or “because I’m told to teach this”. Everything has a purpose!

To close this off, I wanted to let you know that because of Reid’s discovery and use of the Fibonacci sequence, the FIB team were able to crack the case and save some people’s lives (as well as their own)!! Yay for math that saves the day!


  1. Hi Colleen!

    I really enjoyed reading your post on the Fibonacci sequence! I think your second last paragraph on the importance of letting students know the relevance of what they learn is so critical to their learning and their perspective on math! Of course there is relevance to everything we teach, but if we don't assure that we know what that is, how can we allow our students to believe that it is more than just "curriculum".

    Also, I would like to comment on your connection to pop culture! I love Criminal Minds and shows like that (ex. Numbers) have great connections between interesting crime cases and math! My favourite incorporation of math including the Fibonacci sequence was the book and movie of The DiVinci Code! Such great mathematical references and put in an extremely interesting way!

  2. I always loved the Fibonacci sequence when I was in school. Recently my daughter came home from her science class and explained something really cool about it, that makes it relevant to nature.
    The number of petals on any flower is a Fibonacci number, same with leaves on a plant, seeds in a pine cone, etc.
    I wish someone had told me this when I was in school!