Combining Efforts to Learn About Exponents
By Dr. Ingrid Koh, Upper Elementary Math and Science Teacher
Students in fifth grade math are learning about exponents, a topic with many real-life applications such as cell divisions in biology and binary codes in computer science. To that end, they investigated the Sierpiński triangle, which has a “self-similar growth pattern,” which means that it can be reproduced at any magnification or reduction.
We illustrated this concept by starting with small, identical models and eventually joining them together in larger and larger configurations.
First, each student was responsible for building a small triangular pyramid with four vertices using six plastic straws.
Then a small group came together and combined four of those pyramids to form a medium-sized pyramid.
Finally, the small groups united to construct a large pyramid that was nearly four feet tall using the four medium-sized pyramids.
Larger and larger Sierpiński pyramids can be built continuously and modeled using exponents of base four.