Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tess Elation

Special opportunity today, to meet and greet the author of a fun new math book.

Emily Grosvenor (twitter, website) is a "reporter, travel writer and essayist" who has gotten all the way to Mathland with her illustrated children's book Tessalation!. After a successful Kickstarter, the book is available for pre-order or as an e-book at Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited) and direct order from Waldorf Books. I am between having received my electronic and my physical copy, and find the book just charming.

Emily was willing to answer a few questions, so here we go!

Q. Do you remember when you first noticed tessellations?
No. I first learned about them in 4th grade -- every part of my creativity seems to have it seeds in the 4th grade, it must be a seminal year for development. We did an activity in gifted class where we made tessellations. I made an uninspired tessellation of a seal jumping out of the ocean. But it was fun. And clearly it stuck, since I was still thinking about it almost three decades later. 

Q. Do you have a tessellation from someone else that you like especially? (Maybe a favorite Escher tessellation?)
I'm a big fan of Horseman But honestly, I think my favorite is just the simple hexagon tessellation. We just got bees at our home in McMinnville. I have great hopes I'll see one there, soon!  

Q. What makes tessellations worth thinking about and exploring for you?
I find patterns soothing to look at. Honestly, visual culture bothers me a lot. Usually there is so much going on, and I get distracted easily. But with tessellation you can take in the chaos and then let the eye, and the mind, settle on an individual part. Also, I am very compelled by the idea of seeing myself as a part of a greater whole. Not just with my family, but with my community. One of themes behind Tessalation! is that the world is not as chaotic as it seems, that there is an inherent beauty and order to it, and we can be a part of it. 

Q. What was your experience on the first World Tessellation Day?
It was a crazy day! My best friend was in town with her kids and husband and we threw a party at the McMinnville Public Library. We had a tessellation station, we screened the book on the wall, we had hexagon cookies, tiling turtles tessellated games, and coloring pages from the book. It was a BLAST! I was so tired. I probably should have been tweeting out tessellations all day, but there were a couple hundred people around the world who were posting images. In all, I was happy with the outcome. When I got a chance I checked in and retweeted, liked or posted what I could. People who like tessellations really love them. Also, it's a visual meme, which makes it easy to get behind.  
Emily created World Tessellation Day, and used it to launch the book. She has a fun post about the book launch here. The twitter stream for #WorldTessellationDay had a ton of fun participation from genuinely around the world.

Q. Why should it be an annual event?
Why should anything? It's fun. Fun to post, fun to make, fun to see all of the creativity happening around the world. I was most impressed by the posts coming in from Spain showing all of the tessellated mosaics available in plain view in public spaces. There are a lot of silly holidays. We share World Tessellation Day with National Flip Flop Day, for example. Who cares about flip flops? Well, someone does. If anyone cares about something there should be a day for it.
Didn't realize it was also flip flop day - despite Danica McKellar's tweet. Doh.

Q. What’s challenging for you when you are developing a tessellation?

I actually don't do a lot of designing tessellations. Notice I did not make the illustrations in the book, for example. But I did try to create the feeling of tessellating in the rhyme scheme and overall meter of the book. I wanted there to be a strong connection between how the text feels when read out loud and what you are looking at. Can words tessellate? I think I tried to do that. 
Q. Do you have a general process you follow?
The best part of this project has been how it has opened this entire world to me of math play, tessellation and visual culture. I launched this project thinking that tessellations are awesome but not really having any idea of the scope of talent out there or of the artists who are working in tessellation. I've been touched by people who have reached out from around the world to share in the excitement. But my favorite moments are when my 3-year-old, Griffin, finds them in plain sight. Just yesterday he got a new pair of Timberline sandals and said: Mama -- there's a tessellation on my foot! 

Thanks, Emily, for the book, and holiday and interview.

Oh! I should have asked how she got connected with her talented illustrator, Maima Widya Adiputri (Tumblr, FairyFrame).

Find out much more about this book from other stops on the booktour.

Find out more about tessellations from the resources on my page.

Or start immediately making your own! One of my most recent ones to play with on GeoGebra is a funky hexagon one, with a glide reflection similar to what the Horseman has.

#TessellationNation, now #tessnat, is coming at TwitterMathCamp16. Christopher Danielson was thinking it should be based on people's questions, so hop on Twitter to chip in, or share them here.

So far:
Christopher ‏@Trianglemancsd
We proposed this session as one revolving around our questions. Maybe you could share of those here before TMC?
I would like to learn more about how to categorize tessellations.
I wonder about the relationship between "tiling" and "tessellation".
I am super curious about the tilings in mosques. Are they tessellations? Why do they so rarely appear in the math analyses of tessellations I've encountered?
#tessnat There's a start on where my mind is for #TMC16. What about you, Tessellation Nation?

Malke Rosenfeld ‏@mathinyourfeet
1. Hi #tessnat. My goals: try & try again. I would like to play with diff kinds of tiles to help me ask new questions.
2. After I play I'd like to talk abt my notices/Qs and then design a tile that is simple but creates an interesting result/design #tessnat
3. I would also like to observe someone designing/creating an anthropomorphic tiling if that ends up happening. #tessnat

Megan Schmidt ‏@Veganmathbeagle
@Trianglemancsd OH!
I want to draw the things, whatever that means. #tessnat
Ok. My needs are "be in the #tessnat morning session." :)

Friday, July 8, 2016


Quick game idea dreamed up while watching tennis. I'm excited about it, but it's untested. Maybe someone will playtest with me at TMC16?

2 or 4 players (doubles, naturally)

Materials: deck of playing cards, score sheet.

Set up: deal each player 5 cards. Randomly determine who is serving first.

Tennis scoring:

  • In a game, you score love (0), 15, 30, 40, game. But games have to be won by two points. If you get to 40-40 it is deuce (tie). One point from there is Ad (advantage). If the player with ad wins, it's game. If the other player wins it's back to deuce. 
  • It takes 6 games to win a set, but you have to win by two games. 
  • If you get to 6-6, there's a tiebreaker. The server serves once, then players take turns serving twice. First to 7 points wins the tiebreaker and the set, but, everyone say it, you have to win by two points.

(Game design aside: having to win by two points is one of the best remove first player advantage mechanics ever. The tennis tiebreaker was also a great innovation.)

A match can be one set, best of three or best of five. I recommend playing one set to start.

Playing a point: players draw up to 5 cards. The server can play a card or flip over the top card. Each card played has to be higher than the card before. Players can play two cards together as a sum. If a player can't play or chooses to pass, the other player wins the point. The same player or team serves for an entire game, then the other player or team serves the next game. Continue alternating serve throughout the match. When the deck runs out of cards, shuffle the played cards to continue.

Special cards:
Ace: 1 on a serve (flipped from the deck) 11 any other time.
Face cards: count as 10, but can only be played as part of a sum. However, King beats Queen beats Jack beats 10, so Queen+2 beats 10+2.

Variation: card pairs are multiplied rather than added.

Doubles: in a doubles match, either player on a team can play a card, or play a sum, or a sum can be made with one card from each player.

Notes: The weird scoring is the downside, but kids learning tennis scoring is not a bad thing. And it's a classic for a reason. I'm really excited by the strategy here. When to give up on a point, how to get rid of low cards, which pairs to form and play.