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One Fold Circle Review by Josiah Wright, son of Dr. Anne Margaret WrightBradford Hansen-Smith
4606 N. Elston Ave #3
Chicago, IL 60630-42
Have you ever thought about the myriad number of things that can be done with a paper plate? For instance, it can serve as an eating implement, an impromptu Frisbee, a representation of the Whole-ness of the universe, and other assorted mathematical implications. With the exception of the more standard uses of paper plates, such are the foundational elements of One Fold Circle, a book that aims to teach foundational principles of geometry and algebra (not to mention life and the universe)--all from a paper plate. Well, not necessarily a paper plate--any old circle that you can hold in your hands and fold in half should be just fine. The general idea is that of "Wholemovement," based on a rather loose translation of the word geometry and the association of the sphere with the "Whole" of, well, everything. Sound a little strange? That's probably because it is. Sound interesting anyway? I think so.
One Fold Circle is a curious little book, based on the idea that a "real" circle (not just a round shape on a piece of paper) is the foundation of all of geometry. The author, an artist who taught himself geometry, uses the concept of folding a circle to illustrate "over 100 mathematical functions." The book is a self-contained, open-ended course in everything good that can come from a circle. It is designed to be taught to all grades of students (K-12) by folding circles and asking questions. It takes simple activities (such as folding a circle in fourths), illustrates the activities with equally simple diagrams, and applies them to much larger mathematical concepts (such as the Pythagorean Theorem, the properties of various triangles, and other similar subjects).
Though not specifically designed for homeschoolers, this book is well suited to a homeschool setting. I believe it would be best used one-on-one, in exactly the manner recommended. Simply hand your kid a circle, show him how to fold it, and ask questions to learn together. This approach would likely appeal most to the "unschooling" parent, but it could be integrated into a classical or unit study approach. While the general concepts can likely be grasped by students as young as 6 or 7, I would recommend using this book in the later elementary grades and up.
Generally, I found the blend of art and mathematics refreshing. While the math is certainly predominant, the idea of "learning by doing," especially when applied in such an original way, will likely appeal to a range of learning styles. Some students might find the somewhat vague generalities and abstractions confusing or distracting, however. For instance, take this description of a circle from the introduction: "The context for nothing is something, is everything, it is Whole. The symbol of a circle is the only representation for nothing and everything at the same time." The author also expresses spiritualistic ideas about the nature of the circle as the ultimate expression of Everything. Take, for example, the following statement from his website www.wholemovement.com: "[T]he circle is comprehensive, it is inclusive to universal patterns and principles of formation, [and] therefore is reflected in all religious practice."
Nevertheless, if one takes the text strictly for its academic merits, One Fold Circle is a very original and insightful look at one of geometry's most interesting subjects. While the circle (and associated folds) might not explain the nature of the universe, they certainly can help kids learn about proportions, ratios, perpendicular bisectors, and--dare I say it?--everything! (Or a lot of geometry, at any rate.)