Tile Design Day

One of my favorite types of blog post is the classroom comic. My 3rd Grade class today left me wanting to write one of these.

In 3rd Grade, there are more math teachers than homerooms so we end up sharing classrooms. I split the room with a colleague. Every few weeks, we bring our two groups together for a joint class on something fun.

Today, we took out the pattern blocks.


I launched the joint class by asking kids to tell me some things they could notice or figure out about a tile design that I had made. I figured this would introduce some important language, while making sure that everyone had a clear model of what a “tile design” was.


Screenshot 2016-10-27 at 8.59.31 PM.png

Kids brought up the line of symmetry, the colors, that the blue tiles make the same shape as the big design, that the tiles to the left of the blue diamonds are the same as the blue diamonds, and that the design could be split up into 4 big triangles (see them?).

Then I gave students a collection of challenges, some tiles, and asked them to call me over if they made something cool.

This was the collection of challenges.

These are two designs that are the same, except for size.



And I was told that these are entirely different, except for size.

Maybe not entirely different.

That same student showed me a completely unsymmetrical design.

I sometimes equate symmetry with beauty and its lack with ugliness, but I’m really fond of this design. It feels perfectly balanced to me.

My personal favorite was this design. The kid told me that her design had exactly one line of symmetry, snaking all the way through.

Why not?

I do love this type of blog post. It usually ends with a reflection. I loved watching the kids come up with ideas in class today, and I also loved that they were having fun and playing with the blocks.

Did they learn anything? I don’t know. I didn’t see any learning happen. I couldn’t tell you what kids could do tomorrow that they couldn’t already do yesterday. Perhaps there was some new language kids got from that opening discussion? Perhaps a few kids thought about what it means for shapes to be the same/different? I clarified “symmetry” for a kid or two.

To really capitalize on this thinking, I’d need to follow-up again tomorrow in some way. But, by design, this is a one-shot experience that our classes have together. And it’s an aberration from our main mathematical focus right now — addition, multiplication, subtraction, division.

And would it still be fun if we followed-up? If I drove the point into the ground, as I often tend to do?

This was just one in a year of days. Learning happens when we connect these days. But can it ever be best to let an experience stand on its own?


2 thoughts on “Tile Design Day

  1. What a treat! Yes, the snakey symmetry was unexpected. Really liked seeing your questions and the kid “answers.” Maybe one simple take-away for the students would be to notice how the same question can have so many different right answers?.


  2. I never knew that this type of post was called a classroom comic! I think there’s learning going on here: ideas about symmetry, fractions, and shape are being explored by these students, and you may have gained some understanding about their conceptions of these ideas just by observing and listening. I think that days like this are needed, especially as breaks in units that are more computation heavy.


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