This is the summary of a presentation given at the 74th Annual NCTM Meeting, 25-28 April 1996, San Diego, CA.
The mathematics of symmetry is a thread that unifies all of the repeating patterns that humankind has ever used and will ever use. This presentation takes examples of decoration from peoples around the world and shows how all the countless ways to decorate a belt or girdle a storage jar can be classified into only seven essentially different patterns using the concept of symmetry. Likewise each of the infine number of two-dimensional repeating patterns falls into one of seventeen symmetry groups. I will show connections between mathematics and geography, anthropology and history.
Philip R. Mallinson (Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH)
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