BOOMbox at Home: Tessellation Activities

Have you ever studied a pattern and been mesmerized by it? Were you taken away by its beauty or did you just get lost in it? This week we’re exploring patterns in the form of a tessellation, which is a tiled pattern of one or more geometric shapes without overlapping or gaps.

Tessellating Shapes

What does it mean to tessellate a shape? Tessellations are patterns of shapes that fit neatly with one another. These patterns can consist of simple and complex shapes and can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or four-dimensional.

Curious to see a few more examples of tessellations? Look at this children’s math picture book with tessellations by Emily Grosvenor. It includes coloring pages, DIY instructions, and other resources. 

Learn how certain regular polygons, or many-sided shapes, can be tessellated with a few clicks. If you’d like to use paper and pencil, try making a tessellating bird pattern or tessellating stamps. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, consider making origami flowering tessellation

Now that you’re in the know about tessellations, celebrate this intersection of math and art annually on Tessellation Day, June 17. Mark your calendar to celebrate it in 2021 with a unique tessellation of your own.

Tessellations in Nature

Tessellations can be made and they can also be found in nature. Repeating patterns can be found from the ground, such as snake skin, to the sky, with dragonfly wings. Snakes have a repeating pattern within their scale patterns, while dragonflies have a repeating pattern within their wings. Their tessellations are different, but both share the purpose of helping their species survive.

Tessellation also has many different purposes within the natural world. Tessellation allows spiders to create webs to eat, while honeycombs allow bees to survive. What are some examples of tessellation in your backyard? Or your local park?

Noteworthy Tessellations

M.C. Escher, known as the father of tessellations, may not have been the first to tessellate, but is certainly famous for many of his graphic images consisting of patterned geometric figures. He once said, “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” Take a look at some of Escher’s well-known art.

Itching to check out more tessellating shapes? Here’s a compilation of tessellations from artists around the globe. Read up on tessellations in history, mathematics, and four dimensions. Looking to level up on your tessellation game? Learn about Heesch numbers and tiling.

Artist of the Week

Toyin Ojih Odutola is a Nigerian-American visual artist. She graduated from the California College of San Francisco and she had her first solo exhibition in 2011. Her exhibition focused on black ballpoint ink on white backgrounds. She communicates through texture, her various marks representing dialect and accent. Odutola was inducted into the National Academicians Class of 2019, which honors artists who have made remarkable contributions to American art. 


We’d love to see the results of your experiments! Tag @skokielibrary when you share photos of what you’ve created on social media.

Written by Erica and Veena.