In this new term at the Curious Minds Club we started our exploration of shapes, in two and three dimensions of space.

I gave the children a collection of wooden triangles, squares and hexagons. I asked them to make a regular, edge to edge tessellation for each shape. It didn’t take long for every child to find the solutions:

I explained that each tessellation has a vertex notation. I started with the square tessellation, explaining that its notation is 4,4,4,4 (every vertex is surrounded by a shape with four edges i.e. a square). I asked the children to work out the notation for the other two tessellations. With a little help they were able to find the answers: 3,3,3,3,3,3 and 6,6,6.

We then moved on to the semi-regular tessellations, of which there are eight. I used the same wooden pieces and some pieces that I had to cut out of card (octagons and dodecagons) as they are not available in wood. I gave each child a different vertex notation (e.g. 3,6,3,6 to make the pattern in the top left corner below) and asked them to put the pieces in the right order. When I had checked they had got it right (or offered a bit of help) I encouraged each child to take more pieces and extend the pattern out in each direction. I then rotated the activity between the children so they all got to try as many of the eight tessellations as possible.

Here are some examples of completed tessellations:

3,4,6,4 tessellation by a Year 4 girl:

3,3,4,3,4 tessellation by a Year 6 boy:

3,12,12 tessellation by a Year 6 girl:

For our final activity I gave each child a sheet showing all eight semi-regular tessellations and a piece of mirror card, and asked them to find the reflection symmetry for each tessellation (some have more than one). I asked them to find the ‘odd one out’. One boy was successful in identifying that 3,3,3,3,6 has no reflection symmetry. I explained that this is because it is chiral i.e. there are two different versions of it: