Alaskan students prep for World Labyrinth Day

Pre-K through fifth-grade students at Shaw Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska, are creating a maze of mosaics that will eventually be installed in a dirt area in front of the school, Caitlin Skvorc writes in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

We get a nice spiral when we make squares with side lengths equal to the numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence:
an = an–1 + an–2: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, …

It’s all in preparation for the Labyrinth Society’s World Labyrinth Day on May 7, 2016. The project is funded by an Artist in Schools grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rasmuson Foundation.

As part of the Artist in Schools grant, which brings local artist-in-residence Shala Dobson into the school, requires the building of a legacy. For Shaw Elementary, that legacy is both physical and intellectual. The physical part of the legacy comes from the sheer volume of student involvement and the permanent maze that will be sculpted on school grounds. The intellectual part comes from the principles and concepts taught to those students.

The maze is being constructed out of mosaic tiles made from glass beads and concrete. When it’s all put together, the tiles they’re making will form the outline of a double Fibonacci spiral labyrinth, a maze constructed using two Fibonacci spirals similar to the one shown above. Artist-in-residents Shala Dobson, a sculptor who has brought artistic pursuits to several schools in Alaska already, is teaching students about the art materials used in making the tiles. She’s also incorporating lessons in history, math, and science into the project.

“We’re fortunate to have Shala come in and expose kids to every building block of the artistic concepts,” the Frontiersman quoted Maija Fritts, a second-year teacher at Shaw, as saying.

As for the math, the Fibonacci sequence has some interesting properties, many of which are related to the Golden Ratio. In July, Voxitatis reported on the Golden Ratio, and we now add the Fibonacci Sequence to this series of reports.

The Golden Ratio, known by the Greek letter Φ, is commonly written like this:

$latex \frac{\sqrt{5}+1}{2} \approx 1.61803&s=3$

This gives the result of dividing the bigger number in each pair in the sequence by the smaller number. As you go along in the Fibonacci Sequence, the ratio of one number to the one before it more closely approximates the Golden Ratio of 1.61803…

an an–1 Ratio
2 3 1.5
3 5 1.6666…
5 8 1.6
8 13 1.625
144 233 1.618055556…
233 377 1.618025751…

This is but one of many interesting properties about this sequence. Learn more about it from Math Is, where you can also read about the man who developed the sequence: Fibonacci himself. That was just a nickname, though. His real name was Leonardo Pisano Bogollo, and he lived between 1170 and 1250 in Italy.

In addition to the sequence, he helped spread Hindu-Arabic numerals through Europe in place of Roman Numerals.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.