Magazine article Sunset

Tessellation Power

Magazine article Sunset

Tessellation Power

Article excerpt

A combined math-art project produces some cool clothes

MATH AND ART combine in Ruth Colton's fourth-grade class at Encinal Elementary School in Atherton, California, when she teaches students about tessellations--identical geometric shapes that interlock in mosaiclike patterns. Artist M. C. Escher was famous for his intricate tessellated designs, but the art can be as simple as a grid of squares.

The young cyclists above are wearing the results of the classroom lesson: T-shirts embellished with their own tessellated designs. The idea is to make a single shape, trace it repeatedly on paper, color it with fabric crayons, then transfer the colored design to a T-shirt by applying heat with an iron.

Each pattern starts with a paper square. The sketch below shows how to cut the squares into shapes that interlock. The process is surprisingly simple!


To make and transfer a pattern, you'll need a 3-inch square of thick paper, scissors, a pencil, transparent tape, typing or newsprint paper, fabric crayons (sold at art supply stores), a white T-shirt that's at least 50 percent synthetic, and an iron.

Draw, then cut out and tape shapes as shown in the illustration below. …

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