Math in Nature

Dates: June 2nd-13th

Cost: $600

Does math mimic nature or does nature mimic math? Have you ever noticed the spirals found in nature? Have you looked for the patterns in a flower, the clouds in the sky, or the leaves on a tree branch? Keep looking because spirals are found everywhere in nature and they all have mathematical connections. As you take a walk through a garden or a forest, count the petals on a flower or the leaves on the branch of a tree to find the Fibonacci Numbers, the Irrational Spirals, the Golden Ratios, even Fractals and discover how clever nature is. Plants grow cells in spirals, such as the pattern of seeds in a sunflower, and the spiral happens naturally because each new cell is formed after a turn.

We will go exploring for evidence of math in nature, including Fibonacci Numbers and Golden Angles, Rectangles, and Ratios. Then we will build a garden plot in the shape of an Irrational Spiral at the beautiful Georgeson Botanical Garden on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

We will discuss and learn how spirals are formed in nature and learn about mathematics through the art of nature. We will use the power of math to reveal natural patterns and hidden information based on our observations. Other topics and projects will be tailored to student's interest and ability, with an emphasis on having fun and exploring the many fascinating connections between math and nature.


Tim Ludwig

Tim hitchhiked from his childhood home of Neenah, Wisconsin to Skagway, Alaska in 1997. There he worked for an air service and as a tour guide. After two summers, he decided that there had to be more to his life so he stuck out his thumb again and moved north to Fairbanks to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he earned a B.S. in Mathematics. He went on to complete the Teacher Education Program at UAF and began his teaching career in Alakaket.

Since 2005, Tim has been teaching Math at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks, Alaska. Included in his extra-curricular activities at Ryan, Tim is the MathCounts Coach, runs the Rose Urban Rural Exchange Program, and chaperones a group of students traveling to Washington, D.C.

When not involved in school activities, Tim enjoys working on his home, skiing on the many trails surrounding his property, and traveling to faraway places, often with his bicycle.

Sarah Drew

Sarah began teaching in Minto, Alaska in 1986 where she taught K-12 science and high school mathematics for three years. Her next teaching adventure led her to working with home-schooled students who live in remote areas around the Interior. Flying into homesteads to see how people lived, Sarah guided families in looking at their bush lifestyles to design learning modules specific for the students’ educational needs. For the past 14 years, she has been teaching Math/Science at Ryan Middle School. Sarah has a B.S. in Geology from West Georgia University and a B.S. in Science/Math Education from Oregon State University. She has worked as a teacher trainer/curriculum writer with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and as an assistant instructor for the Alaska Math Consortium.

Sarah’s philosophy of teaching is to look at the real world and explore. She encourages students to question what they do not understand, and to seek answers not easily found in the world around them. Sarah has a love for nature and art, as well as teaching. She lives on a farm outside of Fairbanks where she grows organic flowers, makes botanical products and enjoys metalsmithing silver into jewelry.

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