Mathematical Practice(s): , , , , , ,

This is a task that combines art, mathematics and design. Students are asked to see and design optical illusions, think about the mathematics inside them and pose mathematical questions for their friends.

Optical art consists of geometric shapes and patterns, and is often coloured in black and white. This type of art creates illusions, leaving the viewer with the impression that objects are moving, vibrating, pulsating, or warping. Some examples of optical art are given above. Look at the 3 examples, do you see anything about the patterns that cause them to create an optical illusion?

Using the 100-square grid (print the handout), create your own interesting pattern. It may help to use a ruler and it is a good idea to experiment with different designs; doing your best to create a piece of optical art that creates an illusion. Share your designs with a classmate and find out if they see an illusion when looking at your pattern. Experiment with breaking the squares in the grid into triangles, rectangles, and other shapes.

Did you get any more ideas about the ways to create an optical illusion? Describe your mathematical thinking about ways to do that.

Can you see any patterns, fractions, or decimals in your art work? Where are they?

Can you identify any different quadrilaterals?

Think of a mathematical question that you could ask about your art work, that you can give to a friend. Ask your friend your question, and ask them to justify their answer – giving clear reasons for the methods and solutions they come up with.

If someone else wanted to recreate your art work, what directions would you give them? Give precise mathematical statements so that someone could recreate your art without looking at it.

It is interesting to think about what creates an illusion in optical art. Do optical illusions have certain mathematical properties? One idea would be for the whole class to display their designs and look together to see if certain designs create particular visual properties. If you want to extend this task into a bigger project Wikipedia has some interesting information about optical art.

More information and teacher notes are included when you print the handout.