Math + Art = String Art

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Looking for an engaging way to slip in a little math at home with the kids? How about making a beautiful piece of string art like the one above? String art is instantly captivating to kids because of the inherent optical illusion; the graceful curves of the design are created entirely with straight lines.

Parents can capitalize on that interest to help kids experiment with basic geometry concepts and terms, including symmetry vs. asymmetry and right, acute and obtuse angles. The string segments can also be used to create circles, parabolas, ellipses, hyperbolas, spirals and other geometric shapes.

For this project you’ll need:

● cork tile
● ruler
● fine marking pen or pencil
● embroidery thread in 2 – 4 colors
● 3/4-inch finish nails
● hammer

Using a ruler and fine pen or pencil, mark equally spaced dots along all four sides of the tile (for clarity in the photos we started with just the first two adjacent rows). We spaced ours 1 centimeter apart, but you can play with the proportions for different effects. For example, we laid out our design slightly off-center on our tile to enhance the visual trickery a bit.

Hammer a nail straight down into the cork at each mark, being careful not to go all the way through the tile. Select your first color of thread and tie it to the first nail at the end of one row.

Next, loop the string around the second nail in the adjacent row.

Return to the top and loop the string around the second nail in the row you started with.

Then head back down to the adjacent row and loop the string around the third nail.

Continue this process until you run out of nails in either row.

If your design is a shape other than a square (such as a rectangle or an asymmetrical form), you’ll have some empty nails when you’re finished with this section. Cut the string and tie it off on the last nail.

Select your next thread color and repeat the process, starting with the first nail on the bottom row and looping around the second nail on the adjacent new row.

Repeat this process around the entire design until you return to where you started. The possibilities for this project are endless, so encourage your kids to experiment with angles, shapes, color, and scale.

Photo Credits: Stephanie Morgan

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