I'm sorry to note that the BoxerMath.com site seems to no longer exist. If you have been using the lesson on this page, please consider some of these ideas as replacements.

  • Wayback Machine -- It's a cool way to find "old" pages. If you put the url in the field and then click on the button that reads "Take Me Back" it will show you an archived version.
  • Floor Tiles from Shodor's Interactivate site
  • Tessellate! from Shodor's Interactivate site
  • Tessellations from Utah State's National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) site

I've left this page in case it is still useful. Please realize, however, that the link to the BoxerMath Tessellation Tool no longer functions.

-- Suzanne

BoxerMath.com offers on-line curricula for Pre-algebra, Algebra I & II, Geometry, and Trigonometry. All courses include practice problems, tests, lesson plans and enrichment activities. BoxerMath.com also correlates course lessons with state and national mathematics standards.

Regular Tessellations
by Suzanne Alejandre

A Math Forum Companion Lesson to:

NOTE: Use of Internet Explorer 5.0 is recommended.

Student Page


Teacher Lesson Plan

[Challenge]  [Manipulatives]  [Revisiting]  [Formalizing the Math]  [Assessment]  [Resources]

Getting started: Go to BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool, which will allow you to build tessellations and other designs by attaching the corners of various shapes.

Note: BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool will open in a second window. Take a moment to adjust the two windows so that you can work with the applet and also view the text of the activity.

  1. What polygons do you see? Can you find more polygons? (Hint: click on the brown arrow just above the Reset button.)
  2. What does the Reset button do?
  3. What happens when you click on the Help button?
  4. Can you move a polygon to the main area? How?
  5. Change a color and describe how you did it.
  6. BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool lets you choose between translate and rotate. What is the difference between a translation and a rotation?

Challenge: Can you use triangle(s) and the translate feature and/or rotate feature to cover the plane with no gaps or overlaps?

  1. How does your tessellation of an equilateral triangle compare to the other students in your class? How does your tessellation compare to the two samples shown below?

         

  2. How did you make your tessellation? Did you use one triangle and both the translate and the rotate feature? Did you use two triangles and the translate feature?

  3. If you are limited to only one of the triangles, can you make a tessellation? Can you make a tessellation of triangles no matter which of the four triangles is available to you?

  4. Not counting the colors, what is similar about these two tessellations? What is different? [Hint: Try to use the words rotation and/or translation in your explanation.]

         

  5. Four triangles can be chosen from BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool palette of polygons. Each of them can be rotated to "match" the others. Can you explain the connections between the pairs of triangles shown below?

Manipulatives: Use the triangles in a set of activity pattern blocks to make a tessellation. (Paper activity pattern blocks are available on the Web; see Hand Made Manipulative Instructions by Margo Mankus.)

Revisiting the activity: Now that you have tessellated with BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool and with activity pattern blocks, return to the Tessellation Tool to think about using only one equilateral triangle.

If we know that there are 360 degrees in a circle, and if we think of using just one triangle (and the rotation feature) to make our tessellation, how many equilateral triangles do we need to fit together? How many degrees are in the interior measure of the angles that meet?

 Formalizing the mathematics:

     Focus on either of the two units:

         

    1. What is the interior measure of the angles of a triangle?
    2. Look at the vertex of one triangle within a tessellation of triangles. How many triangles, in all, are touching at that vertex?
    3. What is the sum of the angles that share that vertex?

     Before returning to BoxerMath's Tessellation Tool, predict whether a square will tessellate by answering these questions:

    1. What is the interior measure of the angles of a square?
    2. Think of the vertex of one square within a tessellation of squares. How many squares, in all, are touching at that vertex?
    3. What is the sum of the angles that share that vertex?

       Test your prediction. How did you do?

     Repeat the process with a hexagon. Again make a prediction by asking yourself:

    1. What is the interior measure of the angles of a hexagon?
    2. Think of the vertex of one hexagon within a tessellation of hexagons. How many hexagons, in all, are touching at that vertex?
    3. What is the sum of the angles that share that vertex?

       Test your prediction. How did you do?

     Now that you have considered the cases of the equilateral triangle, the square, and the regular hexagon, can you complete the following chart?

      Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
      name of polygon degrees of the interior
      measure of each angle
      360 degrees divided
      by # in Column 2
      equilateral triangle 60 360 / 60 = 6
      square 90  
      regular pentagon    
      regular hexagon    
      regular heptagon    
      regular octagon    

     Can you fill in the blanks in the following statement?

In a tessellation the polygons used will fit together with their angles arranged around a point with no gaps or overlaps. When using just one polygon (for example, only equilateral triangles), the interior measure of each angle will need to be a factor of _____ degrees (meaning that ____ degrees can be divided evenly by that angle measure). The only regular polygons that qualify are the __________________, ___________________, and ___________________.

Assessment:

Choose any polygon other than a triangle, square, or hexagon. Illustrate and explain why it will not tessellate regularly in the Euclidean plane.

_____________________________________

Math Forum Resources

[Information and Lessons]  [Problems of the Week]  [Dr. Math

Information and Lessons on tessellations and symmetry:

What Is a Tessellation?
Definition and illustrated explanation of tessellations.
The Four Types of Symmetry in the Plane
Rotation, translation, reflection, and glide reflection, with illustrations and problems for consideration.
Repeated Reflections of an "R"
Lesson to draw a design with reflectional symmetry and rotational symmetry.
Tessellation Links
Links to other sites on the Web.
Tessellation Tutorials
A series of tutorials that teach students how to tessellate.

[Math Forum Resources]

Selections from Math Forum Problems of the Week:

MidPoW: Tiling Triangles - posted March 11, 2002
Given the dimensions of a large triangle, find the dimensions of the 25 small triangles that tile it.
MidPoW: A Surfer's Tessellation - posted April 30, 2001 [Pow-teach discussion]
Shane is re-tiling his surf shack. How many of each kind of tile will he need, and what does a big tile cost?
GeoPoW: Transforming a Triangle - posted November 13, 2000
Given two triangles on a coordinate plane, find a pair of transformations that will map the first triangle onto the second triangle.
GeoPoW: Rotating a Triangle - posted April 30, 2001
Given a triangle on a coordinate grid, find the new coordinates of the vertices if you rotate the triangle 90 degrees about the origin.

[Math Forum Resources]

Selections from Ask Dr. Math Archives:

Symmetry
What is symmetry?
Tessellation
Are there any non-regular convex polygons with more than four sides that can tessellate?
Tessellation Proof
I am looking for the proof of the statement that only three regular polygons tessellate in the Euclidean plane.
Tessellations and Symmetries
How do you make a tessellation with a rotation, reflection, and translation all in one shape?
Types of Tessellations
I am doing a project on tessellations. Can you explain some of the mathematics behind them?

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

_____________________________________
Home || The Math Library || Quick Reference || Search || Help 
_____________________________________

© 1994-2014 Drexel University. All rights reserved.
http://mathforum.org/
The Math Forum is a research and educational enterprise of the Drexel University School of Education.The Math Forum is a research and educational enterprise of the Drexel University School of Education.

Send comments to: Suzanne Alejandre

BoxerMath.com offers on-line curricula for Pre-algebra, Algebra I & II, Geometry, and Trigonometry. All courses include practice problems, tests, lesson plans and enrichment activities. BoxerMath.com also correlates course lessons with state and national mathematics standards.