Literature Connection:

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson

Mathematical Strand:



The students will create paper quilts of their own using the isometric grid that tessellates the plane or the fraction quilt square.

Grade Level:


Lesson Created by:

Debbie Sylvester and Pat Crosby, Ft. Riley Middle School, Ft. Riley, KS

Lesson Description:


  • The book: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson.
  • Other Resources: The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days by Mary Cobb. Math Art Projects and Activities by Carolyn Ford Brunetto.
  • Other materials: Geometry template, art paper, crayons or colored pencils, triangle grid sheets.

1. Launching the lesson – read the book, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, discuss quilt blocks, their purpose in history and in the life of the pioneer families. Discuss the nature of quilts in mathematical terms – how they use patterns that tessellate the plane. Discuss both the isometric and right triangle grids including the angles that make it possible for the patterns to tessellate the plane.

2. Challenge each student to create an original design using no more than foiur colors that has a special pattern or a meaning.

3. Have each student explain their pattern in paragraph form, making sure to include the meaning and the mathematical significance of their pattern. Provide an opportunity for the students to share their designs and the meaning they included in the pattern they created.


  • Provide examples of quilts and their meanings to the people in modern times.
  • Have students find evidence of quilts (pictures or actual quilts) that are in use today.

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Copyright 2001 S.Ma.R.T.Books and Kansas State University