Homes activity #3: make a tessellation


In Homes, we’ve been exploring tessellations — infinitely repeating patterns of shapes. They can continue in all directions, forever! Found in homes around the world, tessellations can be functional, beautiful, or both.

In this activity, make some refrigerator-worthy mathematical decorations with your kids.

Brick walls, tile floors, and textiles are all examples of functional tessellations, while repeating patterns on wallpapers are purely decorative. One thing all these examples of tessellations have in common: they all fit together with no gaps, spaces, or overlaps.

There’s a long tradition of tessellations in Islamic architecture, tiles, metalwork, ceramics, and textiles. You can look for tessellations in the Yemeni tower house in Homes. Look for them in your home. If you find your house lacking in tessellations, fear not — make some with us here!

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Homes activity #3

You need:

  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • glue
  • Homes activity #3: shape patterns (print it!)
4mix play

Make tessellations:

  1. Cut out lots of equilateral (all sides are the same length) triangles, squares, and hexagons in different colors. (Use Homes activity #3 for traceable patterns.)
  2. Select one shape: make a repeating pattern using one shape.
  3. Select two shapes: make a repeating pattern using two shapes.
  4. Select three shapes: make a repeating pattern using three shapes.
  5. Glue your favorite tessellation to a sheet of large paper.
  6. Find a special spot in your home to hang your tessellation.

Double-check your patterns to make sure they’re tessellations. If you continue to grow the pattern in all directions, will it keep repeating without gaps or spaces? Pick any point where shapes meet. What shapes come together at that point? Pick a few more points. Do the same shapes come together at every point?


Extra credit question: do the interior angles of the shapes add up to 360 degrees at each point? Hint: the interior angles of regular shapes are: triangles = 60 degrees; squares = 90 degrees; hexagons = 120 degrees.

Share your kids’ creations and discoveries on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use the hashtag #tinybop — we love seeing what you’re up to.

This activity was inspired by the teaching resources: Exploring Tessellations, by the Exploratorium and Islamic Art and Geometric Design, by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Download a free Homes Handbook for further learning in the third app from the Explorer’s Library, Homes.