Monday, March 29, 2010

Tessellations: Lessons & Fun Manipulative

Love tessellations. They're like a puzzle. Artsy. Challenging to make. And, yes, math-y. Love the patterns.

Tessellation Posters, Individual

I've often done tessellations with second through sixth grade students--both at home and at school--with pretty cool results. I usually have kids use this method. Here's another set of step-by-step instructions. Basically, start with a square and draw a line (curved or several straight) from the top left to the top right corner. Cut this out, slide straight down across the figure, and tape onto the bottom edge of the square, straight edges together. (This must line up exactly.) Then make another line (again, curved or several straight) from the top left corner to the bottom left corner. Cut. Slide to right side. Tape, straight edges together. After you've got your pattern piece, trace repeatedly on a larger paper.

Here are a few student examples of tessellation posters:

Go to bottom of this entry for some fabulous tessellation links.

Tessellation Poster, Group
Last year every child contributed one "fish" to our large tessellation poster. I used an index card to made a fish that would tessellate. I traced the fish onto individual index cards so that each child had one. I brought in my junk art supply box and they used fabric, glitter, sequins, pompoms, yarn, crayons and colored pens to decorate their fish. They cut them out, very carefully. We then mounted them on a blue piece of posterboard, leaving a "blank fish" space in between each one. I used fish from two different classes to create the poster. Each group was pleased to see what the other group had constructed.

Bargain Bin Manipulatives
But why am I posting this under "Monday Manipulatives?"

I rarely shop. (Food is an exception. I do eat.) Even rarer that I buy much. I'm quite frugal. Quite. :) But on a spring break trip to the mall, I found something in the bargain section that I just had to buy. For math, you know.

They are called "Puzzellations" and are basically magnetic puzzles that tessellate. You can get snowflakes, undersea adventures, garden shapes, and more. When I taught the lessons above, I would have loved to have had these to illustrate the concept on the white board, also magnetic.

We opened the dinosaur kit last night and my 7yo son, my 15yo daughter, and I played around with it a bit. My 7yo had trouble fitting the pieces together at first. So did I. Then we realized that you have to be very precise about placement...which was also the case when I did tessellation lessons with it made sense. My 7yo could do some simple patterns with a lot of effort, the greatest difficulty being with fitting pieces together smoothly. My daughter and I enjoyed experimenting. The box says "ages 8 and up." [See photos below. We tried a variety of things--tessellations as well as other patterns.]

It comes with magnetic pieces, a magnet board, and a booklet. In addition to pattern ideas and tessellation info, the booklet also contains math (involved in making the dinosaur pieces, symmetry--rotational, translational, glide reflection), art (coloring, drawing your own), and tessellations in nature. Pretty involved for a booklet.

Related Children's Book
If you decide to do a tessellation lesson, consider reading A Cloak for the Dreamer as you begin.

Tessellation Links

Here's another great how-to site.

Here's a way to make even fancier designs.

And a wonderful award-winning website of kid-safe Escher-style tessellation art and teachers' tutorials
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A step-by-step YouTube video:

Happy Tessellating!

1 comment:

  1. We have had a lot of fun with tesselations as well. Pop on over and have a look...


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