K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

  • Identify geometric shapes seen on quilt square.
  • Recall and define mathematics vocabulary related to geometric shapes of quilt square.
  • Generate vocabulary list of appropriate mathematical terms.
  • Discuss fractions as part of a whole.
  • Use computers to provide additional examples of quilts and quilt design.
  • Provide a hands-on experience to reinforce concepts presented in the lesson.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


Materials for each student

  • From one color of construction paper cut:
    • five 3X3 inch squares
    • cut three of these squares in half diagonally
  • From another color of construction paper cut:
    • five 3X3 inch squares
    • cut three of these squares in half diagonally
  • From any color construction paper cut:
    • one 9X9 inch square
    • Four containers (box top, cans, basket, etc.) — one for each color and each shape of construction paper pieces
    • Glue or glue sticks

Technology resources

Computer with internet access


  • Discussion of various patterns in quilts
  • Prior lessons in geometry where related vocabulary has been introduced
  • Knowledge of fractions--whole and half


  1. Teacher will direct students’ attention to the quilt square example. Identify this square as the cactus flower pattern. Ask students to think of “math words” or mathematical vocabulary that comes to mind when they see this square.
  2. As students give vocabulary words aloud, the teacher records them on the chart paper.
  3. After entire list is generated, (teacher may add additional words if list is incomplete) students are called on to define words as they relate to the quilt square shown. Correct vocabulary should be used (”triangle”, not “pyramid” for triangle shape, etc.).
  4. Discuss the 3×3 array that this square forms. Ask students how many individual squares can be found in this square (14 squares).
  5. Focus on the two colors used to make the square. Direct a student to show you a square that is one half of one color and one half of another. (”How would we write that fraction?” “Is this entire quilt square exactly one half of one color and one half of another?” “Is that possible? How?”)
  6. Inform students that they will be making a duplicate of the quilt square that you have made. The only variation will be that they may reverse the colors and make the cactus flower out of the color that you used for the background and the background the same color as your cactus flower. Suggest that some squares be exactly like your example and others the opposite colors to make your class quilt more interesting.
  7. Pass out 9×9 inch squares to be used for base of quilt square.
  8. Direct students to arrange their quilt pieces on their 9×9 square completely and have it checked by you, before they begin to glue the pieces into place. They should start at one corner of the square and be sure that adjacent sides fit tightly together as they glue.
  9. The quilt squares should be displayed together to form a class quilt. Vocabulary list may also be added to the display.


  • Oral questions throughout the lesson.
  • Observations of students as they work.
  • Listening to vocabulary used by students as they work on their square.
  • Giving directions and suggestions using words from vocabulary list generated by the class.
  • Questioning students as they work, and at the completion of their work.

Supplemental information

Suggestions of books with quilt themes that may be useful in mathematics-related lessons are:

  • The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flourney
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
  • The Bedspread by Sylvia Fair
  • The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
  • The Quilt Story by Tony Johnson
  • The Josephina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr
  • Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  • Quilts in the Attic by Robin Fleisher
  • Kate’s Quilt by John Burningham


Quilts are a wonderful springboard for many lessons in mathematics and other subject areas of the curriculum. Allowing students to bring in their own quilts from home would naturally extend this lesson.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • Geometry
          • 2.G.1 Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces.1 Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.
          • 2.G.3 Partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will model, identify, and compute with whole numbers through 9,999.
    • Objective 1.05: Use area or region models and set models of fractions to explore part-whole relationships.
      • Represent fractions concretely and symbolically (halves, fourths, thirds, sixths, eighths).
      • Compare and order fractions (halves, fourths, thirds, sixths, eighths) using models and benchmark numbers (zero, one-half, one); describe comparisons.
      • Model and describe common equivalents, especially relationships among halves, fourths, and eighths, and thirds and sixths.
      • Understand that the fractional relationships that occur between zero and one also occur between every two consecutive whole numbers.
      • Understand and use mixed numbers and their equivalent fraction forms.
  • Goal 3: Geometry - The learner will recognize and use basic geometric properties of two- and three-dimensional figures.
    • Objective 3.01: Use appropriate vocabulary to compare, describe, and classify two- and three-dimensional figures.