Trapping Math Magic in Spider Web Shapes

Recently, I was in the library picking up a stack of counting books when I spotted the book featured below. As soon as I noticed the cover, my heart started pounding. I silently shouted, “That’s my idea!”

Let me explain. I keep a notebook full of math picture book ideas  (actually it’s really like four different notebooks, iPhone notes, video memos and computer files. I really need to organize myself better). About a year ago, I wrote down an idea about a math picture book full of spider webs, special spider webs made up of triangles, hexagons and stars. See my notebook image below.

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Some shape webs from my notebook

Every spider web in the wild became a reminder to return to this web shape idea.   But I never did and the idea stayed unformed; a mathematical situation with no story.   For me, the story is the hard part. I come across math situations that interest me every day, but searching for the right story to pair with them takes me the longest time. And this time… time had run out.

I opened the book and I whispered, Please be good. Please be good. I loved the idea of web shapes so much, they deserved to be in magical math book. Please be magical, please be magical.  It was. The perfect story to showcase spider web shape wonder.

The Book

Written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood, Walter’s Wonderful Web is a story about a spider trying to build a perfect web to withstand the wind.

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Walter forms webs containing sets of similar shapes.

Hopgood’s lyrical lines pair perfectly with his adorable images of Walter and his web-making struggles.

After reading Walter’s Wonderful Web, I can’t wait to read more from Hopgood. His website shows about 15 picture books full of intriguing cover art and titles. I immediately placed five of his books on hold at my local library.

Walter’s Wonderful Web was published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Girouz. The book seems like it would be best for 3-6 year olds.

The Math

This book works nicely as a first book of shapes providing an opportunity to notice triangles, squares, rectangles, circles, and diamonds (Note: Diamonds are not a lazy term for rhombus).

Hopgood’s spider web illustrations also open the door to the geometric concepts of similarity and symmetry.

The Magic

Each of my three children read the book.  I didn’t get very far with my 7 year old when I asked what she thought about the book. “It’s for little kids,” she said. It was true for us that the most magical experience occurred with our “little kid” ( my 3 year old son), but my 9 year old enjoyed the book as well.

The end pages provide a set of questions for children to share ideas about geometric objects. My 9 year old shared with me his answer to a question about whether circles have sides.   “The answer is no because it’s round. And it looks like it has one side, but doesn’t because sides are flat not round.”

I asked him what he liked best about the book.

“The last web.”

“Why the last web?”

“Did you look at it?!!”

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The little fingers are the 3 year olds. He tried to snag the book while I was taking the picture for the blog, “It’s MY book” he shouted [Now that’s a promising book review from a 3 year old IMO]
He went on to explain all the shapes he saw in Walter’s wonderful web (pictured above). He explained how by combining the triangles you can see diamonds as well. There’s a lot to explore in that web.

Picture books are just starting to hold my 3 year old’s attention. I wondered whether he would sit for the entire story. He did and he interacted with this book more than any book he has before.

He began a bit afraid. “No. It has spiders.” He said and was about to walk away. “His name is Walter. He’s nice. Look he’s smiling. ” I said to reassure him. Despite his initial hesitation about Walter, by the middle he was emotionally invested. On this spread he pointed and exclaimed at the images of Walter concerned for the sweet spider’s well being.

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On the end pages, I watched curiously as he identified particular shapes and counted the sides of each shape. For him, circles had one side.

“Did you like that book?” I asked. “I loved it, so much.”  And I loved watching him interact with the story SO MUCH.

One more thing about that trip to the library. After I read the book, I went over to one of the librarians to share my excitement.  She mentioned she had just shared it with a group of children during story time. They loved it and they did a toss the yarn activity which looks like fun (see image and link). Here’s an image of a web made by tossing a ball of string. What shapes do you see in the web? 

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Halloween Spider web game From PreK my style blog style.html)

When searching for more spider web activities, I came across this amazing image in an article about the evolution of spider webs. Look at the wonderful shapes the universe creates.

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Orb weavers, from the grouping Orbiculariae, make the classic, wheel-shaped spiderweb, as well as other intriguing designs. This tree hosts a sampling of Orbiculariae, illustrating the web diversity. Evolutionarily older spiders and their ancestors appear on the ground and trunk; more recent arrivals hang from the highest branches. (Credit: F. Vollrath and P. Selden/AR Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2007 (Modified from Vollrath 1988))Enter a caption

And here’s a Scholastic lesson on spider webs and a video of some spider web art.

 

Spider Web shapes are indeed magical. This book would be a great addition to your math picture book stack this fall, perhaps around Halloween.  Also don’t forget Math Story Telling Day is September 25th if you can’t wait until Halloween to enjoy Walter’s Wonderful Web!

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Thanks and see you soon!  Touch #mathbookmagic, pass it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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