Sneak in STEAM Learning With This Fun Food Craft

Introduce your child to "tessellations," or mathematical mosaics which can be found in art and nature — and in many kitchen backsplashes!

May 20, 2019



Sneak in STEAM Learning With This Fun Food Craft

May 20, 2019

Math meets art in this cool project that lets kids experiment with tessellation, or tiling, and gives them an early introduction to geometry. Covering a poster board with tiled gum or uncooked pasta creates a mathematical mosaic. Leave the gum wrapped to make art you can chew on for weeks, or unwrap it to glue onto a scented masterpiece.

Safety Tips and Hints

Gum is a choking hazard for small children.

Kids should be supervised around glue guns and hot glue.

Don’t worry if your young artist leaves some white space in his design. Once you help him get started, let his creative genius take over.

What You’ll Need

  • Uncooked pasta with a uniform shape, like penne, or several packs of colorful gum
  • Glue (school glue or hot glue)
  • Sturdy paper surface, like poster board or foam core board

What To Do

Step 1: If you’re using gum, ask your child whether he'd like to use wrapped or unwrapped gum. Keep it wrapped if he wants to chew it later. Unwrapped gum is easier to work with.

Step 2: Tessellations are patterns made up of shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces, leaving no space in between. Tessellation is also called tiling. Use gum or pasta to show your young learner what a tessellated (tiled) pattern might look like with whatever shape she is using. 

Step 3: Help your child start a pattern in one corner of the board and let him use glue to continue, creating a tightly interlocking, repeating pattern of gum or pasta. It may hang over the edges of the board. 
Step 4: Let your young artist keep gluing gum or pasta on the board until it’s completely covered. If she gets tired of gluing, ask what else she could use to cover the white space. Let her get creative with paint, paper, spices, or whatever else she suggests.    

Step 5: Let him try different, interlocking pasta shapes, like macaroni, or bow tie pasta.  

Creative Enrichment

Look for tessellations in nature and your house. Can you find them in the tiles in your bathroom or kitchen?

Find other shapes you could use to make tessellations, or find an item to trace and use it to draw tessellations. Cut a geometric form, like a triangle, from cardboard, and trace it in interlocking patterns to create tessellations.

Try to make a honeycomb tessellation by tracing a hexagon.  


The STEAM Behind the Fun

If you cover a flat surface with squares, equilateral (sides the same length) triangles, or hexagons that all join up in the same way, you’ve created a regular tessellation. You can also make semi-regular and non-regular tessellations.

There are tessellations everywhere you look in nature. Honeycombs are regular tessellations made by bees, and crystals are 3-D molecular tessellations.

Artists have been inspired by tessellations for thousands of years, interlocking tiny geometric shapes made from clay, stone and glass tiles to create art called mosaics.


This project and more like it are featured in Liz’s new book STEAM Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Hands-On Projects Using Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (Quarry Books, 2018).

© Quarry Books, 2018/ STEAM Lab for Kids; Photo credit: © Quarry Books

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