Difference between revisions of "Course:SLU MATH 124: Math and Escher - Fall 2007 - Dr. Steve Harris"

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*[[Tessellation Art Project]]
*[[Tessellation Art Project]]
**preliminary sketches due by Wednesday, Oct. 24
**final version due by Wednesday, Nov. 7
==Alhambra Pictures==
==Alhambra Pictures==
[[Steve's Alhambra Pictures]]
[[Steve's Alhambra Pictures]]

Revision as of 15:08, 12 October 2007

General Information

Class Time: 1:10 PM - 2:00 PM MWF

Where: Ritter 225

Contact Information: • Office: Ritter Hall 208 (office hours: MWF, 4:00--late) • Email: harrissg@slu.edu • Phone: (314) 977-2439


• M.C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by D. Schattschneider. W.H. Freeman and Company (1990)

Prerequisite: 3 years of high school mathematics or MT A 120 (College Algebra).

Grading: probably two in-class exams; at least one project; various in-class worksheets and homework assignments; and a final exam

Final: Friday December 14 12:00 N – 1:50 PM

How to do well: Attendance and participation are extremely important. It is very hard to make up this material on one's own.


This is an inquiry course, meaning that it is exploratory in nature. The course is structured to provide guidance in your own explorations into various facets of geometry and other branches of mathematics, using the art of Escher as a lodestone, a starting place, a goal, and an inspiration. I will demand mathematical endeavor, coherent writing, and artistic creativity. Both individual and group efforts will be engaged.

The emphasis will, indeed, be on exploration; the majority of class time will consist in your exploration by drawing—whether with paper or computer—various visualizations of the concepts at hand; group work is recommended for this, and groups can work very well together on homework as well. Class explorations and individual homework will form a substantial portion of the grade. There will also be one largish project, including an artistic creation and a substantial written report, (likely) two in-class exams, and a final exam; there will be a field trip to the Cathedral Basilica and perhaps other minor projects. I will expect reports to be carefully written with sentences and paragraphs.

There are a number of possible tracks this course can go down; we won’t have time to investigate all of them in detail, so choices will be made according to the way the class develops. Possible tracks:

  1. creative (primarily artistic)
  2. mathematical structure of tessellations and symmetries
  3. different geometries (flat, spherical, hyperbolic), as described by tessellations and other means
  4. group structures as seen in symmetries and motions
  5. impossible figures and the fourth dimension
  6. fractals

Aside from group work and informal homework, all your work should be your own; the University has strict policies on academic dishonesty. For reports, always cite your sources, and do not present anything as your own work if it should be credited to another.

Email is a good way to keep in touch informally, including at night. Stay in touch!

“Any student who feels that he/she may need academic accommodations in order to meet the requirements of this course-as outlined in the syllabus, due to presence of a disability, should contact the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action. Please telephone the office at 314-977-8885, or visit DuBourg Hall Room 36. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries.”


Letter grades are paramount in my grading scheme, not percentages. I'll always let you know what letter grade corresponds to a given numerical grade. Exams are weighted at 100 points, except for the final which is weighted at 200 points. As a rule, other items are weighted according to the maximum number of points available. But all these weightings are subject to individual adjustment to the benefit of each student (so if you better on the final or on a written project than on other inputs, that item is weighted more heavily in taking the average for the course grade; if you do worse on an exam than other inputs, it can count for less than otherwise).

Missing class is very detrimental to grades, especially in such an active-participation class as this. If you know you're going to be missing a class, let me know and we'll work out what to do about it. If you miss an in-class exploration, quiz, exam, or whatever, be sure to let me know why; if it's for a legitimate reason, we'll work out what to do about it, but I expect every reasonable effort to be made not to miss class.


The schedule below is a tentative schedule.

Construction.png This section is unfinished.

Week of August 27 - Euclidean Geometry

Introduction to the course. We will start with exploring some of the properties of triangles and quardilaterals with an eye towards tesselations.

NOTE: It may frequently be advantageous to open an Explortations page or Exercises page in a new window, instead of having it replace your current window (that way you can still see the instructions listed on this page, back in your original window). To do this on a Mac, for instance, hold the Control key down when clicking on the link, and select "Open Link in New Window".



  • Read the Fundamental Concepts with special attention to triangles, quadrilaterals and convexity.
  • Schattschneider p. 1-19


Diary Week 1

Week of September 3 - Symmetry of Rosettes

The concept of symmetry is fundamental to many of our explorations in this course. Here we will look at reflectional and rotational symmetry. We will examine some of Escher's prints, looking for how symmetry is used in his artwork.





  • Monday September 3 Labor Day: Official University Holiday
  • Friday September 7 Last day to drop without a "W"

Diary Week 2

Week of September 10 - Basic Tessellations; Frieze Symmetries




Diary Week 3

Week of September 17 - Wallpaper Symmetries


  • Friday class cancelled (in order to give you more time to do the Cathedral project)



  • create a pattern, from a given motif, having a given
    • rosette symmetry group
    • frieze symmetry group
  • may use any notes or print-outs, but not the computer



Special Group Project:

  • visit the Cathedral Basilica and record symmetry groups, as described in Cathedral Fieldtrip Project
    • The regular Mass schedule of the Cathedral includes a Friday service at noon, lasting about a half hour, so plan around that time.
    • Also on Friday, the organ will be tuned around 4:00, producing a noisy environment.

Diary Week 4

Week of September 24 - Algebra of Symmetry Groups

Optional (minor extra credit):

  • identify the symmetry groups (ignoring color) in the 3 walls, door, doorway, and mosaic found in my Alhambra Pictures



Diary Week 5

Week of October 1 - More on Tessellations



  • Tessellations: Why There Are Only Three Regular Tessellations (look at 1-6; work on and turn in 7-10)
  • playing around with Geometer's Sketchpad:
    • following along in class
    • GSP Introduction Exploration (use this as a source for explaining the buttons, etc.)
    • GSP Quadrilateral Tessellation Exploration (turn in a sketch of how to tessellate using a non-convex quadrilateral)
      • techniques in GSP tessellation by a quadrilateral:
        • marking a vector (from one vertex to of a figure to the analogous vertex of another figure) and translating the entire diagram by that vector
        • marking center of rotation at a midpoint of an edge and rotating the entire diagram 180 degrees about that center


Diary Week 6

Week of October 8 - Escher's Tessellations

Monday: Exam 1 (see Diary Week 5 for description)



Diary Week 7

Week of October 15


Alhambra Pictures

Steve's Alhambra Pictures