Young children like to sort. They’ll do it on their own based on myriad
of qualities subjective, objective, and fantastical. When asked to sort for
a functional reason, such as testing and sorting colored markers for color
and how well they work, the activity can go on for hours. Asked to do it
for inquiry and again there seems to be a bottomless well of ideas and
criteria on the activity. Sorting comes intuitively and naturally to most.
We are, on the whole, naturally observant of form.
The fun goes deeper when subtle differences are seen and leading questions
go to why and what for. The shared learned vocabulary is deep as well –
each participant shares and brings in new words and concepts in verbalizing
the similarities, differences, and patterns they see. Qualities are
discussed; preferences announced, sides taken and opinions and fact
delineated upon its form.
Patterns seen in similar objects, or those which repeat in one, are grist
for the inquiring mind. Do the patterns match the algorithm definitively or
on occasion? Have we seen this pattern anywhere else? Can you create this
pattern using numbers? Does the pattern help it to survive?
Some forms are so obsequious to their use we hardly give it a second
thought and other forms are a mystery to their purpose. The latter can
perhaps lead to more immediate interest, but the close observation of
something which so wonderfully combines form and function can lead to great
explorations as well.
I use the key concept of form on my own investigations, frequently when I
work with children, and it’s difficult to avoid across all disciplines.