Math and M.C. Escher


Math and M.C. Escher
Math and M.C. Escher

During the last week of school my students started to explore topography concepts. Topography usually isn’t the first thing that is thought of when someone mentions the word math. That’s why I find it so interesting.  I truly enjoy teaching this topic because it often brings out the best from my students.  I find that most upper elementary students tend to thrive when given geometric shapes and asked to explore, rotate, translate or even turn them inside out.

I generally introduce the unit with M.C. Escher.  The class learns a bit about the life of Escher and his contributions to the world of art.  Moreover, we discuss how art and math are related. This is often a deeper conversations as students start to expand on the notion that mathematics can be found throughout our world.  Topics like the golden ratio and Pi often get brought up during this time.

After learning about Escher’s life and his influencers, the class looked at his different artistic creations. Usually my students recognize at least a few different creations.  Students seem to gravitate towards his optical illusion pieces or the famous Waterfall work.  As each work of art was discussed the more students found mathematics as an integral part of Escher’s work. After reviewing the different pieces of lithograph art, the class watched a short video on how Escher’s design and math are connected.

After the video the students were asked to have a conversation about how math can be found in most art.  The words symmetry, rotations, slides, translations, reversals, surfaces, and perspective were all brought up during the discussion.  What’s nice is that the vocabulary was brought up naturally as students spoke to one another.   I was able to highlight the words and facilitate the discussion as needed.

Eventually the discussion ended and the class moved to the next activity.  I planned to have the students create their own Escher-like artwork.  The students reviewed how to have “Escher-like eyes” when creating their own pieces.  I was proud of the student responses and the imagination that came forth during this discussion.  The class then reviewed the directions to create their own Escher-like creations.

The students went through the directions and asked questions.  Once the expectations were clear I passed out a 8 inch by 8 inch square to each student.  Students created their own tessellation template.  In the future I’m probably going to cut the square dimensions in half so the patterns become more evident.

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Eventually the students used the template to create an Escher-like creation.  Students showcased their work to the class using the vocabulary mentioned above.  The students were able to bring their work home on the last day of school.  All in all, this is a lesson I’m intending on using next year and a definite #eduwin in my book.


How do you incorporate art and math?






2 thoughts on “Math and M.C. Escher

  1. Matt, thanks for sharing your students’ work with tessellations, topography, and the links to art. Really cool. I also appreciate the YouTube link, which I will likely share with my colleagues.

    Your whole post speaks to the idea of the need to see the beauty of math not only by trying to develop a “deeper understanding” of math but in fact developing a “deep and interconnected” understanding of math. The link to art is important because it makes math visible to students that go beyond numbers and letters.

    A big area I want to investigate with my students, next year, is to examine how ‘spatial reasoning’ could be developed in meaningful ways and get at those much needed interconnected math/art ideas.

    If you see me tweeting out ideas or questions on this topic, then please chime in. I believe I’d benefit from your thinking.



    1. Paul,

      I value opportunities to showcase art during my math classes. The interdisciplinary connection that you speak of can play a purposeful role in how students discover mathematics. I believe that your statement about developing a deep and interconnected understanding is important. That connection can often lead to curiosity and a desire to learn more about how math impacts our world. I look forward to reading your Tweets on this issue. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.


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