Next: Homework
Up: Table of Contents
Prev: Definitions

Isometry Exercise

Using pattern blocks or a pencil and paper, lay out a pair of objects so that one is a translated image of the other. Notice that you can't tell by looking at the objects which is the motif and which is the image. The translation taking the first object to to the second has an inverse, which takes the second object back to the first. In fact, every isometry has an inverse. The inverse of a translation is a translation. Is the inverse of a rotation another rotation? What is the inverse of reflection?

Have one member of your group secretly lay out a pair of objects that are related by rotation, or draw a new pair of objects on a fresh piece of paper. Can the rest of the group determine what the rotation is? How, or why not? What is its inverse?

Use a coin or a dot to indicate the center of rotation. If you're using pencil and paper, you can draw an arc with an arrow to indicate the angle of rotation. How could you construct the center of rotation using ruler and compass?

Create a motif and its reflected image. Check your work by placing a real mirror along the line of mirror symmetry; you should see an image of the original object exactly where you constructed its image to be. What is the inverse of the reflection?

There are many exciting theorems about isometries to discover, but let's leave them for now and experiment with compositions of reflections.

With real mirrors, it's easy to study the product of two reflections. Put a second mirror on the desk near your first. How many reflected copies of your motif do you see? How are they alike? How are they different? Holding the mirrors perpendicular to the desk, adjust the angle between them and watch how the image changes.

Use a protractor to measure the angle between the mirrors (you might want to trace the lines where the mirrors meet the desk and measure the angle between them -- we haven't defined the "angle between two planes"!) Can you find a relationship between the number of images you see in the mirrors and the angle between them? What happens when the mirrors are parallel?

Now see what you can do with three mirrors. Start out with the mirrors standing perpendicular to the desk and forming a triangle around your motif. What sorts of different patterns can you make this way? How do the angles between the mirrors relate to the patterns formed?

An example of a pattern formed by three mirrors is found in a kaleidoscope. Adjust the mirrors to form a pleasing pattern of your own design and record the angles between the mirrors. Compare your choice of angles and your pattern with those of the other groups in the class.

We've just seen how combinations of mirrors can be used to make patterns in the plane. All of what we've done could be reproduced using The Geometer's Sketchpad, working strictly in the plane of the computer screen. (You may wish to try this). What can we do with mirrors if we use all three dimensions of the space we live in?

If you tilt one of your mirrors so that it's no longer perpendicular to the desk; what happens? Can you guess which angles of tilt will give interesting patterns? If you have the worksheet "Creating Polyhedra with Three Mirrors", you may start working on it now.

Next, please work as far as time permits through the KaleidoTile activity sheets. These worksheets were written by teachers at the Geometry Center during the summer of 1995. As you work, think about how you might use them in your classroom. What aspects would work well in class? What might not work well? What would you change if it were up to you?

If you finish early, you can read Evelyn Sander's World Wide Web press release announcing the first version of KaleidoTile, or see if you can prove some of the theorems about isometries that were mentioned above.

Next: Homework
Up: Table of Contents
Prev: Definitions

[HOME] The Geometry Center Home Page

Author: Chaim Goodman-Strauss, revised and edited by Heidi Burgiel
Comments to:
Created: Dec 7 1995 --- Last modified: Jul 31 1996
Copyright © 1995-1996 by The Geometry Center All rights reserved.