Tessellation Lesson Plans
Students in second through eighth grades can fill their imaginations with repeating shapes!
By Alison Panik
A tessellation is created when a shape (or polygon) is repeated over and over on a surface (or plane) with no empty areas or overlaps in the arrangement. Squares, triangles, rectangles, and hexagons can be repeated like tiles on a surface to create a tessellation. These shapes can also be changed (or deformed) to create new shapes to create unique tessellation designs.
While tessellations are often a topic in mathematics, students can also explore tessellations in the art classroom. You can investigate the art of M.C. Escher. Take students on a journey of Escher’s tessellation work, including Sky and Water I (1938), Lizard (1942), and Horseman (1946). Invite students to discuss what they see going on in each work. Then share biographical information about M.C. Escher and his fascination with “the regular division of the plane” to inspire students in their own exploration with tessellations.
Tessellations provide an opportunity to build a bridge between art and mathematics. You an coordinate with the math teacher to introduce math vocabulary and make mathematical connections to art lessons. One practical use of tessellations is the process of tiling a floor or wall. You could invite a local ceramic tile installer to visit the classroom to share the math and art that go into this work, and to show some unique tile samples. You could visit local public spaces with tiled walls and floors. You could discuss the math and art behind the designs. You can challenge students to find tessellation patterns in clothing, advertisements, and other designs in their home environments. The lesson plans below provide a variety of tessellation projects for students to explore with the art or classroom teacher.
Tessellation Patterns Lesson Plans:
This lesson for third through sixth grades has it all – artist references, a list of alternative materials, related vocabulary with definitions, response-to-art ideas, exhibition suggestions, and even additional extensions to elaborate on learning in a variety of areas. The primary lesson is simple and steps are clear with an impressive result (a 1 1/2” tessellation) that will inspire young artists to explore more of these repeating designs.
This introductory lesson for second grade and up offers teachers a straight forward technique for teaching students how to design and construct a four inch tessellation using an overhead projector to demonstrate the steps involved. Also included is a printable sheet of instructions to offer students.
The math behind the tessellation is introduced in this lesson for third through sixth grades. You could share this lesson with the math teacher and coordinate with a tessellations art exploration in your art classroom. The introduction is clear enough for those who do not teach math to be able to learn and share this information with students. Useful activity sheets for small groups of students are provided.
This lesson for fourth through sixth grades makes use of metallic paper to create mesmerizing tessellations. This is a “back pocket” lesson I would have on hand with materials in an envelope for those days when I need a lesson in a pinch, or a once-and-done lesson.
Investigate the work of M.C. Escher, and then create tessellating artwork. This lesson for fourth through sixth grades would best fit following an introduction to tessellations either in math or art class. Invite students to turn their tessellating shapes into recognizable repeating characters, objects, or figures as seen in the sample art shown with the lesson.