Spiral mysteries

Our multiplication practice is literally spiraling our of control. And the students don’t even know it. By this I mean that they are not practicing multiplication in the traditional manner, seeing problems on the page and answering them. Today, we practiced by lookig for prime numbers on the Ulam spiral. The Ulam spiral, named after the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, is a unique way to visualize the distribution of prime numbers. It involves arranging natural numbers in a spiral pattern on a grid, starting from the center and spiraling outward.

Students created their own spiral and found the prime numbers by checking for factors.

As we had not done this before, we contacted someone in the community with this expertise: Mr. Jim, who visited the class to explain an easy and fun rainbow factorization method he uses with his students in Year 5.

The Ulam spiral not only captured the students’ attention with its visual appeal but also provided a hands-on experience that made learning about prime numbers more memorable. The lesson also sparked some very interesting conversations around the table when someone mentioned galaxies as having a spiral form. We then looked at some pictures and now the questions is, if number 1 is at the center of the Ulam spiral, what is at the center of the galaxy? Questions for another lesson.

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