Quilt Square Mathematics Part 1

      Over a decade ago, when I began my career as an educator in Texas, I saw some resources at a the National Council For Teachers of Mathematics annual conference that used the concept of quilting and specifically quilt squares to teach mathematical concepts. At that time this concept piqued my interest, however; due to the rigid nature of the curriculum I was expected to teach at that time, there was not a lot of room for creativity or teaching any lesson outside of the ones the district required.  

      Fast forward 12 years . . . I recently saw an amazing post from a few years back by Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 about how she integrated quilt squares into her instruction. I decided to jump on some of her ideas along with a few that have been spinning in my head for a long time to excite my students and further their love and passion for math! Here is what we did. 

     First, we had a class discussion about the concept of symmetry. I must admit, I was a little surprised about some of the students misconceptions regarding what symmetry was. To help them better understand, we looked at a number of pictures of objects that are symmetrical. We also looked at examples of a number of quilt squares with symmetrical designs.   I also modeled creating a symmetrical design on the white board.

      After I felt the students had a pretty god grasp on symmetry, I passed out a 15x15 piece of grid paper and told the students that it represented their piece of the classroom math quilt we were going to create. I explained that they could design their square however they chose but that they must choose whether to use two, four, or six colors and that it must include at least one quadrilateral, one triangle, and be perfectly symmetrical both vertically and horizontally. The kids were excited and went to work! There were still a few questions about symmetry. All in all, however, the kids had a ton of fun and I was really pleased with their work!

       This is when the real fun began! After the students had all completed their quilt squares, we reviewed the concept of area and perimeter and calculated the area and perimeter of our squares. Next, I instructed each student to count the total number of individual squares of each color they had and to record their total as a fraction of the whole on a Quilt Square Mathematics information organizer I provided them. The triangles, of course, brought up some rich discussion on fractional pieces. I deliberately chose a 15 x 15 square because I wanted to challenge the students thinking and wanted reducing the fractions to bring up a discussion of divisibility rules, specifically by 3. The kids were tasked with coming up with an accurate actual fraction and reduced fraction representation for each color. They also were asked to give a decimal representation rounded to the nearest hundredth.

     As if we has not processed through enough mathematical thinking, I wanted to push the students thinking a bit further.  After spending a few minutes reviewing a few measurement and geometry concepts from previous lessons, I asked students to choose one triangle and one quadrilateral from their quilt square, name the specific type of polygon or classification of triangle, and to calculate the area of each of their chosen figures! Wow! That was a lot of math for one day.  The kids had an awesome time and I was so happy to see how engaged they all were.  and the level of thinking and mathematical understanding they all exhibited! 

      Last, we used black duck tape to piece all of our quilt squares together to make one giant classroom quilt for display!  It turned out beautiful!  I am so proud of the students work!  What do you think?

     We will be continuing to explore the mathematics contained in a simple quilt square in the days to come.  I will look forward to sharing more about our adventures soon.   

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