Around here we like projects that combine math and art. Math art projects have been a key way for me to get my art-resistant kids to get creative. Following up on our super popular Pi art skyline project, I knew I wanted to do some kind of Fibonacci art project.
Learning about Fibonacci and applying his mathematics to art is a fabulous way to encourage S.T.E.A.M. learning. S.T.E.A.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design, and Math.
It wasn't until my older son revealed himself as a math nerd at an early age that I learned about the Fibonacci number sequence. I even have a list of Fibonacci books for kids that he enjoyed. The sequence, which is found frequently in nature, is named after 12th century mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci. Fibonacci did not "discover" the sequence; the number sequence had been part of Hindu-Arabic mathematics for centuries. He also introduced to Europe the Hindu-Arabic 10 digit place value that we use today (fun fact!).
In the Fibonacci number sequence each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. So, beginning with 1 (although modern mathematicians now start with 0, our art project also begins with 1), the sequence is as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144... and so forth.
The most frequently seen Fibonacci math art project involves the Fibonacci spiral. We experimented with making this in our art journals, but I knew I wanted to do something a bit more three dimensional and different than all the other art projects you see out there. Besides, my 10 year old was less interested in the spiral and more interested in using the compass. (Note: affiliate links below.)
This art project is processed based. You will not be encouraging your children to make something, but to explore shapes based on a specific proportion.
What you need:
- Compass. I bought this compass, which I really like. I once bought a cheap-o compass, but its "hold" because loose almost immediately, rendering it useless.
- Pencil. I'm newly in love with these lumograph pencils. When I was a kid my mom had a set and she was very protective of them and now I see why she loved them so much. I let my kids use them, however!!
- Colored Paper
- Art journal. I've written before how we adore our mixed media paper art journals. The paper is heavy enough to take watercolor, but not so heavy and bumpy that it prohibits sketching. My older son and I have several of them. I'm still working on my youngest's resistance to making art.
- Cardboard, or other scrap piece of heavy card paper.
- Glue stick (optional)
We started by cutting out circles based on the Fibonacci number sequence. Decide how big you are going to want your circles. We made two sizes. One based on a circle with a ¼ inch radius and another based on a radius of ½ inch. Both sizes will fit on a standard size paper.
So, for example, the radii of our Fibonacci sequence circles were as follows:
¼, ¼, ½, ¾, 1 ¼, 2
½, ½, 1, ½, 2 ½, 4
TIP: If your compass does not have a ruler built in, you can make a number line on your cardboard to easily set your compass to make the correct size circle. See photo below:
TIP: Kids can have a difficult time manipulating a compass. As I shared in our compass art project post, place your paper on top of a piece of cardboard and press the tip of the compass through to the board. This will securely hold the compass in place.
TIP: If you make multiple circles in two differently sized sequences, label the back of each circle. We didn't do this and had to go back and figure out which circle was part of which sequence!
Drawing with a compass is actually a lot of fun. Plan ahead if you want and do a simple art session so your kids can explore how to use it. Even my art-resistant 6 year old insisted on drawing with the compass!! I was quite thrilled with that, as you can imagine. Here is his masterpiece:
Once you've determined the size of your circles, simple create as many as you want and cut them out.
TIP: Do not worry about your child's cutting skills!! Circles need not be perfect. The basic Fibonacci sequence proportions will still be there.
Once the circles are cut out, let your child arrange them in pleasing ways in his art journal. He can glue them into place, if he wants.
Watch more of our math art activities!
We did this Fibonacci art project on a dreary evening and it was just the thing to get both our math and art creative juices flowing.
Be sure to read these Fibonacci books:
Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. You can’t beat beautiful nature photos and mathematics. This book has examples of Fibonacci patterns in nature but also the the “golden ratio.”
Fibonacci Fun: Fascinating Activities With Intriguing Numbers is an activity book with projects and puzzles for kids based on Fibonacci and other number sequences. It may inspire you to get hands on with math!
More Fibonacci Goodness: