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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

History / Mathematics : Parthenon and the Golden Rectangle

We first read about the Parthenon in our Histroy core book Story of the World vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer. Subsequently, we learnt more about this ancient ruins from the travels of Richard Halliburton in his Complete Book of Marvels. Two paragraphs were used for copywork and dictation. (See my post on Parthenon for copywork)

We started making a model of the Parthenon when we first read about it. It took us several session of cutting and pasting to complete the model. It actually took us almost 10 hours to complete it! With 14 internal and 46 external columns to roll and glue, I don't think the boys (and I) will ever forget the Parthenon!

Here is D cutting away... look at the tray of columns ready for gluing.

Here is B with the half completed temple beside him...

We had to weigh the columns down with books while we let the glue set.

Here is the completed model. Impressive? (I'll have to arm-twist you to say YES in any case!! :-o)

This project is about the most labour intensive one we have ever embarked on. Of course we didn't know it will be like this when we started. I kept spirits high throughout by setting small achievable goals at each session. So some sessions were not more than an hour long. We enjoyed ourselves in the process. I am just not sure we will try something similar again though ;-)

In a related reading from Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas, we learned about the golden rectangle and its fascinating characteristics. The golden ratio was mentioned but what was more obvious to my two boys was the ability to draw in infinite number of squares within the golden rectangle.

We were intrigued that the golden rectangle can be seen in many natural things around us like the butterfly or dragonfly. And if you draw aches within the squares, you get equiangular spirals that were supposed to be similar to that found in some snails.

Many a man-made objects also have the golden rectangle eg. credit cards and the Parthenon! Apparently, artist and architects incorporate the Golden Rectangle in their art works. You can read more about the obsession with the Golden Ratio at this site.

My original plan was to just read through the chapter on the Golden Rectangle, but just when we finished my boys enthusiastically asked if we could construct a Golden Rectangle (Penrose showed us how to do it - This site has a similar approach). Before I even had time to answer, they were off the sofa running to fetch paper and pencil.

We did try to construct Golden Rectangles. Then it daunted on us that we need to know a way to check if a rectangle was "golden". We managed to figure that out after some thinking. So we tried to check if my credit cards were Golden Rectangles. To our disappointment, it was not! Oh well... it just goes to show we mustn't always believe what we read. Ha ha... It was enlightening nonetheless.

Visit Rumphius Mathematics Webpage or History Webpage to find out more about how we approach Mathematics or History in our homeschool.


  1. THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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