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February 10, 2010

Transformations, Tessellations and Ceiling Tiles

By Stacey Burt
Grades 6–8


    Working with transformations in geometry can be tough, even for the most precocious mathematical mind. Many times spatial reasoning is not the forte of every student. To reinforce the concept of transformations with geometric shapes, I often conduct a mini unit on tessellations.


    By investigating M.C. Escher’s tessellations, students are able understand the concepts of translation, reflection, and rotation a bit better. Escher’s tessellations are quite beautiful and intriguing to examine, therefore student interest is very high.


    After perusing Escher’s work, I invite my students to create their own tessellation. The initial design is created on graph paper. Students are instructed to use color and even a template if necessary. The designs range from very simplistic (basic regular polygons) to the extremely abstract (yin and yang type birds). Once I have approved their design as a tessellation, students are given a ceiling tile on which to reproduce their work of art. I purchase new tiles from a home improvement store like Lowe’s or Home Depot very cheaply and distribute them to the students…they understand they may only have one. The tiles are very fragile, so I recommend giving the students plenty of space to spread out.


    I realize that this may not be an option in all classrooms or schools; however, once the tiles are placed in the ceiling, the result is stunning. I have students that come back from year to year just to make sure that their tile is still on display. Of course you will want the students to sign their work in a location where is can be seen by all (like any good artist).

    Fusing math and art…nothing like it!

    Cheers-

    Stacey


    Working with transformations in geometry can be tough, even for the most precocious mathematical mind. Many times spatial reasoning is not the forte of every student. To reinforce the concept of transformations with geometric shapes, I often conduct a mini unit on tessellations.


    By investigating M.C. Escher’s tessellations, students are able understand the concepts of translation, reflection, and rotation a bit better. Escher’s tessellations are quite beautiful and intriguing to examine, therefore student interest is very high.


    After perusing Escher’s work, I invite my students to create their own tessellation. The initial design is created on graph paper. Students are instructed to use color and even a template if necessary. The designs range from very simplistic (basic regular polygons) to the extremely abstract (yin and yang type birds). Once I have approved their design as a tessellation, students are given a ceiling tile on which to reproduce their work of art. I purchase new tiles from a home improvement store like Lowe’s or Home Depot very cheaply and distribute them to the students…they understand they may only have one. The tiles are very fragile, so I recommend giving the students plenty of space to spread out.


    I realize that this may not be an option in all classrooms or schools; however, once the tiles are placed in the ceiling, the result is stunning. I have students that come back from year to year just to make sure that their tile is still on display. Of course you will want the students to sign their work in a location where is can be seen by all (like any good artist).

    Fusing math and art…nothing like it!

    Cheers-

    Stacey

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