Tessellations are all around us! A tile floor is a good example. Encourage your students to find other tessellating patterns in the world around them. Then make your own tessellations inspired by artist M.C. Escher. (Don’t be afraid to try these… they are much easier than they look!)

First, some helpful vocabulary:
M.C. Escher – a Dutch artist (1898-1972) who is best known for his mathematically inspired drawings and prints which displayed great realism, while at the same time showing impossible perspective, eye trickery and metamorphosis.
– a pattern made with polygons that completely fills a space with no gaps, spaces or overlaps.
Polygon – a shape with three or more sides

1. Cut a lined index card to 3″x3″.
2. Next, cut a shape from one side of your 3″x3′ card, and slide it to the opposite side of the card, without flipping it over or turning it. (The lines on your index card will show you if you’ve flipped or turned it!)
3. Now, tape the shape so that it is
exactly across from the spot you cut it from. If you include a corner in your cut, it makes it easier to line the shape up on the opposite side. (For older students, you can make this project more challenging by having them repeat this step on an adjacent side of their card, as in the sample project above.)
4. Turn your newly created shape (we’ll call this your “tile”) in different directions and use your imagination to see if it “looks like” anything. Lightly sketch your idea onto your tile…. be creative!
5. Place your tile on the center of a 9″x12″ paper and carefully trace around it. (I use 12″x18″ paper when I do this with 6th graders.)
6. Now, pick up your tile and place it next to your traced design, as if it were a piece fitting into a jigsaw puzzle. There shouldn’t be any gaps or overlapping. Then, trace around your tile again.
7. Repeat this step until your whole paper is covered and there are no gaps or spaces.

8. Trace over your pencil lines with a
Sharpie and add details to each shape to help others recognize what you “saw” in it. (Remember that whatever details you add to one shape, will need to be added to EVERY shape! Keep your details simple.)
9. Finally, color your design with markers, colored pencils or crayons.

Below is an example of a more basic tessellation done with first graders, where the shape was cut from one side of the card only. We treated this as an abstract design and didn’t add any details, but just colored it in an alternating pattern.

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7 Responses to Tessellations

  1. Emily & Co. October 21, 2009 at 11:16 am #

    I just found your blog. My 6 year old daughter wants to be artist when she grows up – now I have tons of ideas of projects I can do with her so she can pursue that dream!THANKS!


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