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Monday, February 20, 2012

"Shapes that Tessel Ate"

This is a new favorte book for AJ that introduces kids to the notion of tesselation, the perfect spatial tiling of shapes in a level plane without spaces.

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"Shapes that Tessel Ate" by Sarah Renee Jackson, from
"Tessel is a children’s educational book (ages 2 to 12) that illustrates a fun way of introducing the names of different geometrical shapes and looking at the mathematical concept of “tesselation” - using geometrical shapes to fill a specified region completely, without leaving gaps (for example, a square or a hexagon can be tiled without leaving any gaps, whereas a circle or a pentagon could not). Using characters like Tessel, mathematical concepts can be presented to children in fun, innovative ways. Keep updated on future educational books by the same author and illustrator by emailing"

The kids catch on pretty quick. The showed me that their giant square foam mats for the room, are "tesselating" (Maggie says it with a strong A sound). I showed them the fringe quilt on Maggie's bed handmade by a friend. I mentioned about honeycombs in the bug book.  AJ asked me if diamonds could tesselate, and I said "Yes. How did you know?"  He showed me the Hello Kitty pillow case with the tesselating diamond pattern. Wow, impressive.

We see this everyday, applied in tiling formats found in middle eastern or Spanish art and even plain brick walls and bathroom tiling.  I stumbled upon a recent news article about Jewish Nobel Prize winner who discovered a certain solid that was not a crystalline structure but a tesselation (which was a new word I learned at age 34 and my kids know this word at age 4!) I like the part in the book when they ask if we thought if it would be good "if tessel ate octogons"? AJ remembers about the sandwich! It's a good illustration, you'll have to read the book to find out what this means.

I showed them the soccer ball (handmade by Brian in high school Home Ec class) and I explained that we can't tesselate pentagons on their own but with hexagons, they make a soccer ball shape... called a spherical polyhedron. Anywayz they already know their shapes, I just wanted to extend that knowledge a bit.

Additional Ideas on Math for Kids.

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