Snowflakes are beautiful, but it’s hard to see exactly what they look like. They’re teeny and they melt fast. So photographer Alexey Kljatov figured out how to take the best snowflake photos ever. He sets up his camera with two lenses back to back, to “magnify” the picture even more (make it bigger). He lets the flakes land on dark wool so they show up well, and snaps 8-12 shots really fast before the flake moves or melts. Then he lines up those photos on top of each other to show all the little edges and lines and feathery spikes. As we see here, flakes usually have 6 sides, but can also have just 3! And as we know, every flake will look different from the next.
Wee ones: What shape does the top right 3-sided flake look like?
Little kids: If you catch 7 flakes on your tongue, then one more, how many have you caught? Bonus: Alexey took LOTS of photos to catch these flakes. If he caught 5 flakes and snapped 10 photos of each, how would you count them up by 10s?
Big kids: Snowflakes are “fractal,” meaning they repeat the same design tinier and tinier. If a snowflake’s 6 feathery spikes each have 6 of their own teeny spikes, how many teenier spikes does the flake have? Bonus: What if each of those had 6 even teenier spikes? How many of that smallest size would there be? (Hint: you can multiply by 6 by multiplying by 3, then by 2.)
Wee ones: A triangle (though the flake really has 6 sides, just not equal length).
Little kids: 8 snowflakes. Bonus: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50.
Big kids: 36 spikes. Bonus: 216 spikes — that’s 6 x 6 x 6, or 6 “cubed.”
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.