October 22, 2012

tessellations and complements

There is something so appealing about optical illusions and tessellations.
What a great way to incorporate math into the art room.
My fifth graders looked at a genius of spatial illusion...M.C. Escher.
For the rest of the class we each created our own unique tessellation.
Tip 1: Make sure to tell the students to not trim off any piece of paper besides the one you show.
I purposefully show them an example of one not cut exactly on the line. It's okay, don't trim off the extra!!
Have the students line up the "A" corner with the corner of a 9 x 12 paper.
Start tracing.
This creates a translation tessellation.

On day two each student is handed a post-it note.
We do a gallery tour and write respectful and helpful suggestions for what the person might tessellate their shape into.
This was so great!
It really got the kids thinking outside the box.
Thus the transformations begin.
Students can turn their paper any direction they want.
They used pencil to draw their idea over and over again.
Once all the shapes have been transformed with pencil the students are given a sharpie to outline.

On day three the outlining continues.
We also talk about complementary colors.
Students pick a pair of complements and they use matching crayons to add small details of color.

The students then pick ONE of these complementary colors and do a watercolor wash on top.
One of my samples (below) shows what all the washes look like.
Tip 2: I highly suggest that you don't let them use both colors of the pair because you will more than likely end up with brown.
Keep it simple, do a one color wash.


  1. Great lesson Jen - it's not often you see it done properly! The dog faces are my favourite - they look so quizzical :)

  2. We've done tessellations like that too, but I love your Post-It idea. Absolutely fabulous!. We've also experimented with flipping the cut-out when it is attached to the opposite side - if you are careful you get some great rotations,but you need to make sure the kids really understand it first!

    Great tutorial!

  3. I love the post-it note idea too! I did tessellations this way with my 4th graders, and some of my students had funny-looking shapes that they couldn't think of what to make them into. I just told them to make it into a monster (any shape can be a monster!!), but your post-it idea is fabulous!! Thanks for sharing :).