Monday, October 10, 2011


Just when I think I have a handle on the simplest things, Clementine cheerfully shows me that I'm not even close. She always manages to think of things I couldn't have predicted in a million years and I end up like this: 

Earlier today,
we were reviewing her math lesson...
Me: So, remember talking about symmetry? How some shapes have symmetry, like hearts, squares, and circles? You can divide symmetrical shapes to get two identical parts. The parts will always be the same size and shape.

Things in nature have symmetry, like leaves and flowers on many plants.
(shows picture)

Me: Nature seems to like symmetry. Many insects have symmetry. They are the same on both sides. They are balanced so that they can fly. If they were unbalanced, heavier on one side, it would be hard to fly, wouldn't it?
(shows picture)
from here^, used with permission

Yes. Ladybugs are the same on both sides, too.

Me: Yes! You're right. Many things we make have symmetry, like buildings and spoons. This is the Taj Mahal, in India. Look at the symmetry. Both sides are the same.
(shows picture of the Taj Mahal, and a spoon)

Me: People have a lot of symmetry. We have two eyes, one on each side. Two ears, one on each side. And our paired features are usually the same size, are in the same place, and are usually the same color. We usually have two eyes the same color and shape, right? We have two feet. Animals have two pairs of feet.

Clementine: Yes. except some people and some cats have different colored eyes. Like Dustbunny.

Background: Dustbunny was our cat, who passed away a few years ago. She had one blue eye and one golden eye. She was deaf and had a neurological malformation called CH - Cerebellar Hypoplasia^, which made her stagger and stumble). CH happens when the mother cat gets sick when she is carrying kittens. Distemper is a common cause.
Me: Right. Exactly. Most people and most animals have at least some symmetry. People and four-legged animals have an invisible middle line and mirrored features on either side of that line. That line is called the line of symmetry^. Your line of symmetry runs from the top of your head, through the middle of your nose, through your belly button, and between your feet. One side looks like the other in reverse.

Can you show me the line of symmetry here? Some of these figures have it, some don't. Ask me if you have questions. Okay?

Clementine: Okay. (draw draw draw)
Clementine's lines of symmetry
Me: Awesome! You got them all! Now, some figures have more than one line of symmetry. Squares, for example. You can go top to bottom, or side to side and get the same shapes which will be the same size. Can you find all of the lines of symmetry here? There may be more than just two.

Clementine: Okay. (draw draw draw, quickly finding all four lines of symmetry).

Clementine's four lines of symmetry in a square

Me: Awesome! Yay! There is a picture that people think of when they think of symmetry. It's called the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was was thinking about a book when he drew it, which is how the picture gets its name. The guy who wrote the book was Vitruvius, who lived in Ancient Rome.He wrote a book about using the measurements and symmetry in the human body to build buildings. Vitruvius is who the Vitruvian Man is named for.
(shows picture of Vitruvian Man)

Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci

Clementine: (looks briefly at Leonardo's drawing): But he's not symmetrical, Mommy. One of his eyes is different from the other.

(looking closely) I think he's drawn with a shadow that...

Clementine: He's like Dustbunny. Was he deaf? Did he wobble when he walked? Did his Mommy have bad tempers like Dustbunny's mommy? Do you think he was really moody?

Me: o.0
At this point, the questions are piling up and I have no answers. This is me, in cat form:

After a few minutes, we get everything straightened out and we finish the review and move on.
  • It's just a shadow, he does not have different eyes (at least, that's what I'm going with).
  • I'm sure his Mommy was fine. Please don't worry. 
  • He probably did not wobble because he looks really strong and healthy. 
  • It's distemper, not bad temper. People don't get it (at least I hope not). Probably ought to look it up. She'll hold me to the answer.
  • He is supposed to represent the perfect human, so he probably was not deaf.  
What a smarty pants cat might look like.
Image from an antique postcard

So, I survived another day with my little smarty pants and will live to be befuddled by her another day. 

And Clementine knows a lot about symmetrical shapes and cats with CH.

Not bad for a Monday.



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