Fun With Tessellations

fun with tessellation

After we read about tessellations in The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places we decided to make our own artistic versions. I got the directions from Big Ideas for Small Mathematicians.

Tessellation is about regular patterns that split the plane up into lots of little tiles which fit together perfectly, without overlapping or leaving any gaps. Tessellation is fundamental to maths, because it’s all about symmetry.

We started with a cardboard square each (ours were about 5x5cm).  We talked about how we could cover a page with squares without leaving any gaps.

First we cut a piece from the bottom of our square. We were careful not to cut the corners off, and we found it easiest to cut from corner to corner (to avoid having to measure where to reattach the cut piece on the other side). We slid the cut-off piece upwards, and attached it with tape to the top edge of the square.

Tellellation square

Then we did the same on the left side of our square. We cut a piece out, slid it along to the right side, then reattached it.

Tessellating square

I asked the children if we had added any cardboard to our shapes, or taken any away (no). We agreed, then, that our shapes should take up the same total amount of space as our original squares.

maths fun with tessellations

We traced around our shape on a blank piece of paper, then carefully moved it along and traced around it again.  And again, and again until we’d covered the page.

Tessellating art
I traced over my shapes with a black Sharpie. (Do you think they look a bit like Fred from the Life of Fred books?!)

Our tessellations looked so pretty, we decided to paint them.

fun with tessellations

J(8)’s didn’t cover his paper without gaps – he was adamant he wanted to create his art his way – but he understood the idea! 

fun with tessllations2
Tessellation-inspired art 😉

The artist M.C.Escher used tessellation to create amazing art.  This BBC video clip is excellent!


Mathematicians know that their subject is beautiful.  Escher shows us that it’s beautiful.

Prof. Ian Stewart, University of Warwick

For more maths ideas, visit the inspiring monthly carnival Math Teachers At Play over at my favourite maths blog, Let’s Play Math.

maths art fun with tessellations

Join me at:

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Look What We Did at Hammock Tracks

Hobbies and Handicrafts at Highhill Homeschool

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16 thoughts on “Fun With Tessellations

  1. So, so timely! I’m looking into tessallations and Escher as well. Thank you for sharing the resources you use. They’ll come in handy for us too. Escher’s art is so amazing, isn’t it? I get cross-eyed looking at some of his more complicated pieces. I can relate to J(8)’s wish to do art his way. Tiger was very much like this only a very short while ago. 🙂

  2. We had one of the Escher paintings in our Come Look with Me Art book this year. I found it fascinating. Thank you for putting together this lesson. I bookmarked it and plan to use it next year.

  3. Tesselations are fun, I like how you created the template.

    And by the way, Escher is SOOOO cool. I used to have a few books with his stuff. I wonder what happened to them.

    1. We watched a few more You Tube vids on Escher this morning, he is v cool. Let me us know if you can recommend any good books!

  4. I look at your maths posts with a slight yearning. I want to do maths this way, I know I could do it and I know the children would just love it but I think it might just be the straw that broke the camels back! Oh well, I’ll just enjoy your posts, right now that’ll have to be good enough!

    1. 🙂 I seem to be most excited about maths right now – meanwhile your recent post reminded me of the pack of borax I’ve had sitting in the cupboard since Easter – science seems to be taking a back seat for a while!

  5. Fun! My son had a whole class on tessellations in co-op last year. He loved it! Thanks for all of the great ideas, and for linking with Collage Friday!

    1. Hi Valeri, sorry I missed your comment before. We just used blank copy paper for the tesselations, although thicker paper may have been better to paint on! Lucinda

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