In our last Truth Treasure Hunters meeting, we learned about tessellations, identical shapes that fit together exactly to cover a space completely. Artist M.C. Escher was famous for tessellation art and was able to create amazing tessellations. For a look at these, check out this site. The Truth Treasure Hunters learned how some shapes tessellate (squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, even with unequal sides) but others do not (pentagons). We passed out pattern blocks and gave them some time to play with shapes that tessellate, although they had a good time making their own patterns with a mix of shapes.
Tessellations were first known through mosaics, which is where the term comes from (the Latin word tessa refers to the stone shapes used as mosaic tiles), but Escher brought new attention to the mathematical possibilities of tessellations.
The tessellations.org site has a good project for creating your own tessellations that is pretty manageable for all ages. Our preschool age kids played with pattern blocks (and wandered off to play) while the kindergarten kids and older were able to complete this project. Younger kids should follow the tracing method, while older kids can try cutting out shapes and gluing them together (like a mosaic). Sydney's tessellation is shown above, on the left. She made her template (follow the link for instructions) and traced it on her paper. She thought the shape looked like a girl, and drew one on. Eventually she hopes to draw the girl on each shape. Hope made the colorful pattern with pattern blocks, shown on the right.