Star-o-Rama (and how to make them)

Every year around this time I find myself making stars of some kind. Last year it was window stars made out of individually folded squares of translucent kite paper which were then glued together. This year I did this:

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These are all woven versions/variations of the 12-star polygon which I first encountered in 2012. Highly inspired by Paul Salomon’s work I really wanted to figure out just what was going on. My entire investigation (including how my then seven year old daughter interacted with the subject) is housed at my old blog.  I should say that it’s been about five years since then and I’m super pleased with myself (she said modestly) about how my understanding of using number and structure/pattern to make #mathart has grown since then. And, yes, I think it’s completely worthwhile to celebrate growth in ourselves!

Anyhow, things got a little wild on Twitter when I posted some of these images and I’ve had inquiries about how to go about making these woven versions. So, in addition to the resources in the links shared above, here is more information in case you’re interested in digging in to this project.

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  1. Not completely necessary, but the book Drawing Stars and Building Polyhedra does a great job laying out the basics.
  2. Dot circle templates from nrich: I use these with to practice drawing out different kinds of stars based on the “skip number”. They are definitely helpful in figuring out how these beautiful objects are structured (especially primes, like 13-stars, above).  I also use the dot circles to serve as templates for cutting the slits in the circles.
  3. Spice jar lid to trace
  4. Cardboard: I up-cycled some oldish packing boxes we got at a office supply store. I prefer thinner cardboard to the thicker kind, but your mileage may vary.
  5. Heavy duty scissors (I used kitchen scissors).
  6. Embroidery floss in a variety of colors

Prepping the the cardboard

  1. Remember that you don’t have to do all of this — kids can do all of these steps!
  2. BONUS! Working with your hands/scissors improves fine motor skills AND cognition!
  3. Trace the spice lid onto the cardboard using a sharp pencil with some room between circles
  4. My kitchen scissors (heavy duty) worked really well with the cardboard
  5. When the circles are cut it’s time to cut out one of the dot circle templates (which, luckily, fit the spice lid circle perfectly). Put a little tape loop on the back, stick it to the cardboard circle and cut small slits around the circle. Remove dot circle and repeat to make as many circles as you desire.

Final thoughts/inspiration

  1. There are multiple “solutions” to creating 12-stars and patterns will emerge as you experiment and play around. Personally, I’ve been enjoying playing with color gradients, and with overlapping different 12-star shapes, both of which can make the designs really pop.
  2. Here are some closer-up images to consider before you get started. If you’re doing this in a group, it’s always useful to start with a Notice/Wonder. This routine takes just a little time to muse over and talk about what you’re seeing in the provocations before you get started with making. It’s definitely time well spent in terms of deepening learning and understanding. The last three stars in these photos were made by my twelve year old.

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Even if you’re not doing this with students, experimenting is key. Have fun!

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