Post image for White Line Pebble Maths

It’s hard not to be inspired by pebbles. You pick them up, you look at them and they speak silently to you in ways that words can’t describe. They are inexplicably powerful. Sometimes one ends up in your pocket. Other times they get dropped and moved around by our actions as well as that of the waves, rivers and other geomorphological processes.

Some pebbles have white lines – bands of quartz – within them. Jessica’s Nature Blog has some fine examples. In the above photo, you can see that I have cheated and added a white line with an acrylic marker pen. A more gentle and natural alternative would have been to scratch the line with another stone. Likewise white chalk can be used for temporary work and experiments.

White line 3

To spend time on the beach in warm summer sunshine, picking up pebbles and playing with them is special. It can be a calming and almost meditative experience. The ideas in this post came from seeing photos such as this one by Andy Goldsworthy.

In the photo below, I had to measure the length of each white line comparatively. The spiral is created from putting the the stones in a rough order from largest on the outside to smallest in the centre. This required some thinking as the lines are painted horizontally as well as vertically on the stones. So it was a bit like doing a jigsaw and fitting the pieces together.

White line 2

It’s perfectly enjoyable simply playing around with pictures and possibilities of one straight line on each pebble. However, think about the fun which can be had when right angles are introduced…

White Line 4

Suddenly the shape-making properties of the simple line are increased. So what happens when T-Bars or two right angles are added into a shape…

White Line 8

Or how about some Y-angles – the value of acute and obtuse angles. There is no need to stick to regular shapes. You can just enjoy laying out the stones and seeing what happens. This helps little children learn a lot about how a change of angle, changes direction and thus the shape of any given piece of work.

White Line 5

Naturally the teacher-within-me surfaced and I just had to make a letter from the alphabet…

White Line 7

Of course, when you look at straight lines, you have to consider the opposite possibilities and see how curved lines  work. Perhaps my curves are too squiggly…

White Line 6
When investigating lines and patterns the world of art and maths delightfully merge and dance together. What do you think? Have a go and find out for yourself this summer, should you be at the beach…

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Caro Webster July 12, 2014 at 08:54

Juliet, this is the loveliest of ideas. Simple brilliance. Will be sharing far and wide. xx


Kierna July 12, 2014 at 09:45

Lovely idea, very jealous that you are so near a beach with ready access to pebbles!


Juliet Robertson July 12, 2014 at 11:37

Thanks – it is such a little gem of an idea…!


Juliet Robertson July 12, 2014 at 11:39

Kierna… agreed – I do like living within a stone’s throw of the sea 🙂


Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk) July 14, 2014 at 12:00

You just dont know how much idea has this post sparked! I almost want to go to the beach now to get some stones but I will calm myself and do it later or tomorrow. This is an amazing idea. Best ever. #CountryKids


Juliet Robertson July 14, 2014 at 12:02

Thanks Merlinda – That what I was hoping for when I posted that it would give others seeds of ideas…


Kate Limburn July 14, 2014 at 15:00

What a great, simple but educational and fun idea! We were just at a wedding at the weekend where they used pebbles painted with white paint for place settings – I’m guessing the bride and groom found them as inspiring as you! Not seen this idea before though – love it! #countrykids


Juliet Robertson July 14, 2014 at 19:17

Thanks Kate – I hadn’t seen this idea anywhere else either, so I’d love to be able to claim this as a first. I did a Pinterest search too checking lots of pebble, stone and rock photos 🙂 … perhaps someone will tell me otherwise.


Show My Homework July 16, 2014 at 13:40

It’s so simple and easy to do that we’ll definitely be recommending it.

Show My Homework / @ShowMyHomework


Diana Fedora Tucci July 19, 2014 at 17:40

Stunning idea!! So beautiful and suitable for children’s exploration and open-ended learning. The possibilities seem endless. Thank you so much for posting, Juliet.


Randi January 30, 2017 at 23:43

Hi! I made these with paint markers and chalk markers and both seem to chip off. I put modge podge on the stones to try and protect them and it didn’t work. The modge podge didn’t dry completely clear and it started to peel off anyway. Any suggestions? Thanks!


Juliet Robertson January 31, 2017 at 03:40

I used acrylic deco marker pens. These do fade over time and need topped up every few months to a year depending on usage. If you are using some-polished stones the paint will not stay on as well. Hope this helps.


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