Engaging students: Fibonacci sequence

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Taylor Vaughn. Her topic, from Precalculus: the Fibonacci sequence.

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How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?
The article “Music and the Fibonacci sequence and Phi” talks about how the Fibonacci sequence correlates how the keys on the piano are laid out. Also talks about how the sequence also affects the frequency of chords. One thing I like about this article is that it doesn’t just talk about the sequence in one way, like how the instrument is made, but also different aspects like the chord. In other showings of the Fibonacci sequence they talk about pine cones and flowers. Personally, I think that music is something that is more relatable to students and a lot of people have seen a piano, but never just thought about the making. People who are that involved in music, probably noticed that there was some pattern to the keys, but didn’t think that by any chance that it was related to math.
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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?
Since the sequence is named Fibonacci sequence you may think that the founder’s name is Fibonacci, but actually his name is Leonardo of Pisa. The nickname Fibonacci comes from the shortening of the Latin term “filius Bonacci”, which means son of Bonacci. Well why does that matter? That was his dad’s last name. Also, the Latin phrase is incorporated in the title of his book. One thing that I found cool, was that Leonardo actually had a North African education. When talking about mathematicians you never hear anything about Africa. So let’s look at the history of the sequence itself. After reading a few articles, some believe that he actually didn’t discover the sequence himself, but merely saw it during his travels and he was the one to actually write about it. Edouard Lucas is the person who named the sequence, the Fibonacci sequence. When Fibonacci wrote about the sequence it was in the 1200’s, Lucas wasn’t around until the 1800’s. That is 600 years that the sequence didn’t have a name. So during that time, what did people refer to it as? I really don’t know. Lucas is the person to look more into the sequence and noticed that the numbers have a common ratio, which is now called the golden ratio, he also discovered other patterns that lie in the sequence.
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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?
The video Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant [1 of 3] was an engaging video because it actually shows the sequence in different objects. For example, when she talks about the sequence in pine cones she actually gets glitter paint, and shows and counts the diagonals on the pine cone. Also I like that she uses pine cones of different sizes and shapes, and shows that the pattern still holds s that students don’t think that it was planned that she picked up that type of pine cone. I also like that she brings in relevant object like fruit. I think this is a good engage because it shows patterns of things that students see often, but never stopped and paused to think about. One thing I don’t like about Vi Hart is the speed that she talks. I normally have to watch the video multiple times to get all the information she gives. In a classroom, you really don’t have the time to allow students to watch the video multiple times. This video could also be given as homework before their lesson and it would allow students to watch it multiple times and could turn in their notes, or provide questions for them to answer. I definitely think that the video is cool and would spike some interest in entering sequences.

Meisner, Gary. “Music and the Fibonacci Sequence and Phi – The Golden Ratio: Phi, 1.618.” The Golden Ratio Phi 1618. N.p., 04 May 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Knott, Dr. Ron. “Contents of This Page.” Who Was Fibonacci? Ron Knott, 11 Mar. 1998. Web.    15 Nov. 2015.
Knott, Ron, and The Plus Team. “The Life and Numbers of Fibonacci.” The Life and Numbers of Fibonacci. N.p., 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Hart, Vi. “Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant [1 of 3].” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

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