The Revival of Patterns and Symmetrical Designs (LS-MT-108)

The colourful trade of tile making

This cross-curricular learning scenario incorporates Art in relation to Social Studies, English, Mathematics and Maltese. Specifically, it also addresses the mathematics in tile patterns. The LS starts off with a discussion of some images of stained glass artworks from the Europeana collection. These images are colourful and have symmetrical designs and patterns, that can start stimulating discussions.

Such works of art reminded me of the works executed from local Maltese artisans, especially the ones working in the trade of traditional tile making, a topic which is also part of the Social Studies syllabus in primary schools. These tiles used to be very colourful, incorporating symmetrical and artistic designs as well. In this class activity, we took a local approach, but nonetheless, anyone implementing this LS can adapt it to the local crafts of their own country.

students designing patterns
Students drawing patterns

Speak with a local tile maker

Following the discussion, we presented some video clips documenting the trade of tile making – this took students back in the past and raised curiosities while urging them to ask questions. We moved on to a case study and brainstorming activity where students had to imagine that they are going to visit a tile maker in their workshop. Thus they were encouraged to think, compare and share some questions in English, which they would like to ask the tile maker.

designs and patterns created by students
Patterns drew by students

Design your own tiles

A closer look at the traditional tile designs lead the students to Mathematical concepts: fractions of basic shapes, and their lines of symmetry. Students designed the patterns of a tile they wished by using fractions and symmetry, rotation and flipping. For the final step, students wrote a formal email to a Maltese tile making company to order tiles with the design they had created. In this way, the course started out as a social study of local craftsmanship and continued on the application of mathematics in design, using written and spoken language used throughout the activities.

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