tessellating inspired by Tessalation!

Posted on: June 28th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I visited the grade 2&3s at Grauer Elementary on their last day of school at the end of June. I had spent some time in this classroom the previous year and was happy to see some familiar faces…excited first thing in the morning to do some math with me!

I told them about a new picture book called Tessellation! that I was excited about and explained a little bit about Kickstarter to them and why I only had a pdf version of the book at this point. I explained that the girl on the cover was named Tessa and that the title was a play on the word tessellation. We looked at the colour cover I printed out and asked them what they noticed. ¬†They noticed the shapes in the trees and on the girl’s skirt. They explained that the shapes were “connected” together.


We read a few pages and they noticed more tessellations making connections – “They are like a puzzle!” “It’s like a checkerboard!” “It works like a quilt!” The students were ¬†particularly taken with the turtles – I think because they were not “regular” shape and they were curious how they all “connected” together. Inspired by their curiosity about the turtles, I suggested they might want to investigate what shapes tessellate and what makes something tessellate-able.


At this point, I stopped reading the story, leaving it with the classroom teacher Mrs. Partridge to finish reading later to the students. I explained that I had put out several materials around the classroom and they could choose what materials they wanted to work with to investigate shapes, designs, patterns and tessellations.

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The tessellating turtles (available here) were very popular with the students and I appreciated how collaboratively the students worked together to find different ways to tessellate them.

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I also demonstrated how by beginning with a cardstock square, they could cut out a part of it from one side, slide it across to the opposite side and tape it down to create a “tile” that would tessellate. I left some squares, pencils, scissors and tape out for students to experiment with.



Some of the other materials the students explored with were patterns blocks, glass tiles and wood shapes.

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The students were fascinated with the colourful transparent plastic triangles I recently ordered (from here). The set comes with hexagon trays which the students used to create their designs – focusing on repeating patterns, colour and symmetry, before placing them on the old-style overhead projector.

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I’m always on the lookout for books that inspire mathematical thinking and that lead to investigating mathematical concepts. Tessalation! does this nicely – encouraging students to look closely at the illustrations which in turn leads to students making connections and wondering,which for these grades 2&3 students then led to their own investigations with materials to explore tessellations.

The Kindle Edition is available here. Hardcopy versions of Tessellation! can be ordered here.


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