Featured Topic: M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher is the Dutch artist widely credited with popularizing the tessellating form. Students should definitely view the work of Escher as a part of any math unit on tessellations. This review may include discussion of transformational geometry as students identify whether the tessellating pieces translate (slide), rotate (turn), or reflect (flip) to create each tessellation.

Students may begin their investigation using pattern blocks to identify which of the regular shapes will tessellate the plane. Depending on the age of students, they may combine shapes to find combinations that will tessellate the plane.

Finally, students should be encouraged to develop their own original tessellations in the Escher style. Doing so will definitely increase their admiration for Escher and the many contemporary artists who work in this field. The shapes are rather easy to create. The inspiration to see the character hidden within is a greater challenge for beginners. While the true artists most likely begin with the end in mind, beginners usually create a piece then try to figure out what they have created. This process guarantees a lot of fun and many laughs as students rotate and flip their shapes to figure out just what they could be. Be sure to include the Develop Escher Eyes activity, listed below, before students attempt their own original tessellations, using the directions also found below.

  • Visit the Escher Galleries on the Tessellations.org website to view many examples of Escher's art.

Creating Original Escher-Type Tessellations

These directions support students as they create tessellating pieces that slide to tessellate the page. Creating the tessellating piece is the easy part of this activity. Students traditionally have a tougher time deciding what their creation can be. Use the suggested ideas to help students develop an Escher eye for form.

Additional Tessellation Activities on the Internet