Fifth graders at All Saints’ Episcopal School recently donned their math goggles and engaged in a hands-on geometry exploration using the visual arts as a lens.
In order to make the teaching and learning of transformations more engaging and meaningful to students, the fifth grade mathematics teacher introduced students to the work of the Dutch artist, M.C Escher (1898-1972), and used his many pieces of tessellated art as a springboard to exploring transformations.
Students marveled at Escher’s complex and intricately designed tessellations as they perused a variety of books and calendars featuring his artwork. Using paper squares and scissors, students discovered that in order to create a tessellation, they must perform one or more transformations (translation, rotation, or a glide reflection). While creating their tessellations, students also discussed other mathematical concepts including area, perimeter, and congruence.
Next, students were challenged to locate examples of tessellations in their classroom. They were astounded by the multitude of tessellations – right in front of their eyes (ceiling and floor, tile, wall of windows, cabinets, designs in posters, teacher’s sweater, etc.).
At the end of the activity, the fifth grade teacher transformed a school hallway into an art gallery, showcasing her students’ mathematical masterpieces.