STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Fractals, Nature, and Snowflakes

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Mysterious-PatternsCoverSmallMysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
By Sarah C. Campbell; photos by Sarah and Richard Campbell
32 pages; ages 7 – 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2014

If you’ve never heard of a fractal, then this is the book for you. Sarah Campbell begins by looking at simple shapes around us: cones, cylinders, spheres, rectangles. Then she moves on to things in nature that don’t have perfect shapes.

“Instead of being straight, smooth, and flat, many natural shapes are rough, bristly, and bumpy,” she writes. True enough when you’re looking at a head of broccoli, a fern, or even a tree.

Before 1975 no one really had a name for these shapes. Then, a mathematician named Mandelbrot noticed something interesting: these shapes had repeating patterns. For example,. A tree starts with a stem that divides into branches, which each divide into branches, until the very last and smallest split into twigs. He called these patterns “fractals”.

In her book, Campbell provides photos of different kinds of fractals. Then she provides a DYI “make your own fractal” activity and ends with a biographical sketch of Mandelbrot.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book fractal activities.


Author: Sue Heavenrich

I write about science and environmental issues for children and their families.

One thought on “Fractals, Nature, and Snowflakes

  1. This is a wonderful book. I was very lucky to meet Sarah Campbell and her husband Richard this past spring at the NSTA national conference. She is just bursting with enthusiasm to share science and math with others. Simply exuberant. I believe she has some other great book ideas in the works.