Math Crafts: Salt Designs, Newton Snowflakes, Fractal Christmas Trees, Paper Pentagons, and Flip Books

I have had a crafty late fall and early winter. I’ve been good about posting my crafts on Twitter, but not so good at blogging about them. So, I’ve collected them all and will share them all here in one blog post.

The Geometry of Salt

I came across this neat pdf by Troy Jones about using salt to do geometry. So, over Thanksgiving break I got my kids and their cousins together to do a little mathematics. We cut various shapes out of paper, propped them up on glasses, and poured salt over them. The salt is a natural bisector. The ridges can be used to bisect angles and to find the locus of points equidistant from two curves. We had fun making triangle centers, Voronoi diagrams, and conic sections. I had a good time thinking about why this worked (it is a fun exercise to see why these ridges form the various conic sections).


Paper Pentagon

In a recent paper by John Sharp I learned about tying a strip of paper into a regular pentagon. It goes back to ‘Tom Tit,’ which was the pen-name of Arthur Good (1853–1928).


Newton Snowflake

The American Institute of Physics gave templates to make physics-related snowflakes. I used their template to make this Isaac Newton snowflake. (As cool as it is, it doesn’t have six-fold symmetry like a true snowflake.) They also have a crystallography and a Nikola Tesla snowflake.


Flip Book

I have been wanting to make a mathematical flip book for a long time. Yesterday was the day that I made it happen. My 13-year old son and I figured out how to do it using the Adobe suite (my son is becoming a self-taught Adobe wiz). I started by creating the first four stages of the Koch snowflake using Illustrator. My son imported them into After Effects and had them morph from one to the other. He used Media Encoder to export them as an animated gif:


Then we exported the frames of the gif as 90 separate images. I printed them on card stock with nine per page (here’s a pdf). I cut them out and used a binder clip to hold them together. It seemed like 90 frames was perhaps too many, so I took every other frame and made two books of 45 frames. Those worked well. Lastly, I put the two books back to back and took following video of the triangle turning into a snowflake turning back into a triangle. I’m excited to make more flip books.

Fractal Christmas Trees

I found this blog post, which has instructions on how to make a fractal Christmas tree. I made one and thought it looked great. In fact, it folds up nicely into a card. So my daughter made one to give to her teacher.DRCDZADVoAAriWM.jpg_large

After that, I tried making one of my own design. Rather than cutting the paper in half at each stage, I cut it into thirds. The result is below. It looks cool, but when it is folded as a card, part of the inside sticks out.



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