While trying to engage others, I usually end up engaging myself.
Hey, not bad, at least one of us is using her creativity and having fun!
While leafing through (no pun intended) one of my favorite math blogs, I stumbled onto this request to submit a math blog post. Though I love math as an adult and do my best to make it really engaging, sometimes it just doesn’t have that natural appeal (again, no pun intended). I loved math until 6th grade when my questions stopped getting answered and my mathematics love morphed into book work. So, to write a math post, it has to be some part of math that I still love and enjoy (and where I can throw in some novelty).
I was curious enough to be inspired to increase my blog reach, so I began to focus on a math topic I enjoy and let loose a little creativity on the side. Though life got in the way this time around, perhaps next time I’ll make the deadline.
I was not the first to ask, but I still enjoyed my question enough to write a post about it.
Do vegetables have OCD ?
Ah, now you’re catching onto my puns.
OCD is not something to be laughed at and I mean no offense, but with all of the order in mathematics and supposedly in nature it led me to this question. Do vegetables have OCD; as in do they create order and symmetry?
One way to find out.
My mission: Can I find symmetry in the
I began looking at vegetables from the outside to identify symmetry.
Well, sort of.
I see symmetry in the red outside of this bell pepper and even at base of the stem.
But upon further inspection….
Maybe it’s not exactly symmetrical. Rotating the vege (or fruit, if you wish), causes you to examine it with new perspective.
These examples go above and beyond creating symmetry with vegetables, but for now, onto another question:
When introducing the concept of symmetry, most books/workbooks give the common (and relatable) example of a face to demonstrate symmetry, but in reality, anyone who has really examined a face realizes that there are differences on opposing sides. While drawing a vertical line through the center of a face (not to be tried at home) sets eyes & ears on both sides and splits the mouth and nose, upon further inspection there are sometimes very pronounced differences.
Which is, I guess the reason much instruction on the topic results in viewing perfectly symmetrical examples that are computer generated. It’s tough to create perfectly symmetrical images in drawings. I found this out when asking 3rd graders to draw symmetrical objects. Most stick to the simple ones they see in books or work with even simpler basic shapes like circles or squares.
The problem is, third graders can’t draw symmetrical objects by hand perfectly. That drives them crazy. They begin to question if any objects are really symmetrical noting slight differences.
It may be more important to focus on 3 dimensional objects that retain symmetrical properties as in regular polyhedra. Upon reflection, rotation, and translation, they more readily demonstrate symmetry. Drawing cubes and other regular polyhedra (while it offers more challenges to young children) is more engaging and memorable and after all, isn’t that the purpose? Once a concept is engaging, you’re more willing to ponder about it and make discoveries.
Okay, next is how to relate the concept of symmetry to real life. What about using a simple table to demonstrate symmetry in real life? Sometimes they look at it superficially without microscopic detection and everyone agrees that YES, it’s symmetrical, but other times I get the comments like:
Uh…that side has a scratch,
but the other side doesn’t.
If the table wobbles, is it
So, you end up playing the game, “Is it supposed to be symmetrical?” Drawings intended to be symmetrical lack perfect symmetry, but you get the idea. I guess I should be thankful that they’re still in the questioning stage of their education.
So, we’ve established that symmetry is identifiable in produce (though not always perfect symmetry) and while I’m pretty sure that veges don’t have anxiety disorders, the do seem to gravitate towards that perfect shape. Something tells me it’s in their genes.
Why is symmetry an important
Symmetry relates to the geometric properties that occur in the world around us. In addition, symmetry supports understanding of mathematical properties that will come much later in higher mathematics.
“From the beginning, Newton’s laws incorporated symmetry: the laws that we observe to govern motion and gravitation do not change their form if we reset our clocks, or if we change the point from which distances are measured, or if we rotate our entire laboratory so it faces in a different direction.”
– Steven Weinberg from
Symmetry: A Key to Nature’s Secrets
There is beauty in symmetry. Even the business world creates symmetry through the logos which represent their companies. Supposedly the symmetrical quality draws people towards the product.
Symmetry is something ever-present in our world and something we often strive to obtain. From balancing equations to “balancing life” we seek order and through equality life feels more perfect; or more comfortable.
Having a “balanced life” means we seek to be our best and to contribute our best. Just like our little vegetable friends. Though they may not be perfectly symmetrical, they proved to be quite yummy.
I can easily observe symmetry in architecture, design, and nature, which makes me wonder….when there is a lack of symmetry, is it less pleasing?
I guess I have some work to do.
But isn’t life more interesting when it’s all just a little off-center anyway?