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.
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.
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.
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.
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.