making truchet tiles

Posted on: September 18th, 2018 by jnovakowski

What are truchet tiles?

Truchet tiles are square tiles cut across the diagonal into two triangles of contrasting colours.

In 1704, Sebastien Truchet consideredÂ all possible patterns formed by tilings of right triangles oriented at the four corners of a square. The tiles create patterns in grids of tiles.Â Since the original version was investigated, other variations have been created.

Once again, I have been inspired by Christopher Danielson and his lovely math materials. His version of truchet tiles can be found HERE.

I have made a simple version for an upcoming make and take afternoon with teachers in The Studio. You need square tiles, paint and a brush. I painted the tops and edges of the tiles in colour first. You could leave them naturally coloured. Once the paint was dry, I used a piece of tape to “mask” off one side, lining up the tape from corner to corner along the diagonal. Press firmly along the edge of the tape so you don’t get any paint seepage under the tape. Paint the exposed side of the tile black or other high contrasting colour. Depending on your paint, you might need a second coat. I left the tape on as it was handy to hold onto as I turned the tile over to paint the back (once the first side is dry). I chose to paint the second side all black but you could also leave it natural, or paint it a colour or paint it the same way you painted the first side. Let completely dry and then carefully peel off the tape.

Note: I used a “value” paint for this project and I didn’t like the feel of the tiles in my hands so I added a coat of Mod Podge and they are much smoother to the touch now.

Each tile has four orientations:

Combining two tiles together and then using these in different orientations allows for many different patterns and designs. How many permutations of two tile combinations are there? ( a great spatial reasoning investigation)

These tiles are great for thinking about spatial reasoning, orientation and transformation as well as composing and decomposing shapes.

Finding lots of square tiles in bulk isn’t easy. I ended up ordering 400 from a craftsperson on etsy. I used 1-inch tiles but you could make them in any size. I think you need at least 25 (5×5 grid) to create patterns using the different shape compositions you can create. They could also easily be made with construction paper or cardstock but the wood is more durable and I am not a fan of laminating (reasoning – make the materials more slippery and hard to tessellate and takes hundreds of years to decompose).

I am looking forward to seeing how students across the grades in Richmond investigate and create with these tiles.

~Janice