Magical Math with Mittens

My sixth-grader ended her school day yesterday with rosy cheeks, sweaty hair, and an enormous smile. With their teacher, the class had hiked into the snowy woods and built what she described as an enormous snowman.

There’s more, though. She described this cold creation as a Fibonacci Snowman. You know what the Fibonacci numbers are, right, mom?

Indeed, I do, but I had missed that these mysterious numbers fit into giant snowmen. One hat, two stick arms, three rocks for eyes and a nose, five buttons, and eight pieces of birch bark for a mouth. What I also missed was the love of much larger numbers, the centimeters of girth and height that went into the hundreds.

With such gusto, this girl relayed the small class’s adventure, involving mathematical calculation and joint herculean strength to lift heavy snowballs.

With these short days, I sometimes cast my vision elsewhere, envying light-filled territories. Then my tousled-hair daughter reminds me implicitly why we’re Vermonters, and why winter is wildly lovely. As we narrow through this time of sparse light, our table is lit each night with a single red candle, in this sacred time of impenetrable night, waiting for the earth to turn around and make her slow, eternally patient way back to the season of mammoth sunflowers.

Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Our kitchen window view over the December garden.


By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.


  1. Delightful. Kudos to a teacher that can make math exciting and applicable. And use the season to their advantage. You’re fortunate, most schools wouldn’t allow a teacher to do an outing like that w/o cutting through red tape.

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