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Maths takes Shape - Islamic Patterns

Background information

Islamic patterns decorate many mosques and state buildings. In the year 946 Abul Wafa wrote a book about the ways in which geometry was used widely by Muslim craftsmen. For hundreds of years Muslim artists have shown great skill in putting shapes together to make intricate geometrical patterns. The outsides of buildings are often decorated with colourful tiles and the insides of buildings often contain wonderfully decorative mosaics and carvings.

Islamic patterns help pupils to observe different shapes within the pattern such as triangles, quadrilaterals, squares, kites and parallelograms. Pupils can identify reflected shapes.

The noun tessellation comes from the Latin, tessellare, to pave with tiles. In tiling patterns, shapes that tessellate are used extensively.

Muslim artists also use symmetrical patterns extensively in their carving.

Many Islamic patterns represent the infinite, repeating themselves forever.

Creating Islamic Patterns

This activity has been used at the upper end of KS2 and in KS3

Pattern by Matthew Fryer (aged 12) of Avon Middle School, Salisbury

  1. To make this pattern, draw a square, four squares long and four squares wide.
  2. Draw one vertical, one horizontal and two diagonal lines.
  3. Join the midpoints of these lines. Make sure you keep the shapes symmetrical in all four axes.
  4. Decide which lines you want to rub out to make your pattern. Make sure you still keep to the rules of symmetry.
  5. If you would like to develop your skills, tessellate your completed pattern to make a larger design.

Creating Islamic Patterns

Matthew's pattern has been tessellated to make an intricate design.

The gaps have formed new shapes so his original pattern is difficult to identify. Colour in his original pattern so that it stands out.

Matthew's pattern - tessellated

Can you make your own pattern and create a tessellation. Ask a friend to colour in your original pattern.