Beautiful Symmetry

Beautiful Symmetry



Welcome to PLIX Beautiful Symmetry! Explore a branch of mathematics that's profound, yet accessible to creative learners. Beautiful Symmetry adopts symmetry as a foundation around which to create works of art and functional materials in physical and digital formats.

Beautiful Symmetry at a Glance

This activity can operate as either a structured workshop or a drop-in activity.

  • Age Range: All ages!
  • Group Size: 10 - 15 participants
  • Number of Facilitators: 1 - 2
  • Activity Length: 1 - 1.5 hours for a structured workshop; or drop-in
  • Cost: $2 - $4, per participant (note that this activity uses many craft or recycled materials that many librarians may already have on-hand!)

Share the love: Tell us how you use this activity guide on the PLIX Forum or via our PLIX Remix report form. Remember, our guide is just a jumping off point β€” feel free change or create new design elements to suit your local community!

Supply Kit

Below you'll find some materials that we've found work well for this activity, but it's not necessary to have them all! The prompt you'll explore determines what materials you'll want to have on hand.

PLIX zines: folded & cut Beautiful Symmetry printouts (one sheet per participant)
paper (with or without grids; generate a wide variety of styles at Griddzly)
large sheets / rolls of butcher paper (for wrapping or wallpaper)
markers, colored pencils, or crayons
stencils / cookie cutters
stamp pads and rubber stamps (or erasers/potatoes/sponges to carve)
for roller stamps: paper towel or toilet paper tubes and items to attach (rubber bands, foam pieces, etc.)
laptops / computer access if using Scratch or making spreadsheet art
optional: PLIX Beautiful Symmetry Pattern Grid & Tiles: tiles printed & cut, with base grids printed: one set per participant

Beautiful Symmetry Zine

Download here β†’


A note about zines: Our PLIX zines are designed to be supplementary resources for patrons and librarians to refer to during workshops. They're a quick and easy way for people to learn some fundamentals. You can print them on 8.5x11" paper, and they're easy to assemble. Here’s a resource that shows you step-by-step how to cut and fold them after printing!


Workshop Prompts

The Beautiful Symmetry activity supplies can be used with a wide variety of workshop prompts. Below you'll find a few that we love πŸ’•β€” and we encourage you to come up with your own!

Design a textile, gift wrap,Β or wallpaper pattern using customized stamps.
Model the infiniteΒ by making patterns with algorithms (in Scratch, in a spreadsheet, or on paper) or printing continuous patterns with cylindrical roller stamps.
Explore the built and natural worlds to capture imagery of the way symmetry provides form and function.
Build a sculpture or tapestryΒ using symmetrical elements found in the environment.

Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Patterns created by hand-carving potato stamps.
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!
Unicode creating patterns in spreadsheets!

Symmetry found in the natural world.
Symmetry found in the natural world.
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.
A radial symmetry drawing interface using Scratch.

Making Example Projects

When preparing to facilitate a creative learning activity, we always recommend populating your space with diverse example projects. A good example project is thoughtfully designed to inspire your patrons, spark their curiosity, and be easy enough to understand to support them in getting started with the activity.

Learn more about the art of the example in our PLIX Guide to Making Activity Examples.

Facilitation Tips

Since there are many ways to explore symmetry, patrons may need some guidance in how or where to get started. When facilitating this activity, we encourage you to support a tinkering mindset, and consider the following to culture a creative learning environment:

Facilitation Techniques to try with Beautiful Symmetry→

🌐 Think globally, inspire locally.

Consider having examples on-hand that reflect the cultural diversity of your community. Symmetrical patterns appear in a wide range of textiles, ceramics, wall patterns, tapestries, and from every continent and islands around the world.

🌊 Know the depth.

While the concept of symmetry and pattern is something learners often encounter in preschool, the domain has a very high ceiling in mathematics research. You won't want to dive into the technical jargon, but it may be helpful to point out to participants to areas where the field of symmetry is relevant: facial recognition, meshes, 3-D modeling, algorithmic art

Be sure to also check out our PLIX Facilitation Techniques Guide for additional techniques from the PLIX team to help you cultivate your own creative learning facilitation practice.

About PLIX Beautiful Symmetry

This activity was developed in collaboration with Jean Slavkovsky (Malden Public Library, Massachusetts), Claudia Haines (Homer Public Library, Alaska), and Alex Berke (MIT Media Lab graduate student) as part of the PLIX Co-Design program, in which Media Lab researchers team up with public librarians to create new PLIX programming.

Other ways to engage with the PLIX Beautiful Symmetry activity:

Want to learn more about PLIX? Visit our homepage at

The Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) is a project of the MIT Media Lab Digital Learning & Collaboration Studio. Except where otherwise noted, all materials on this site are licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Accessibility.