Magical Moiré Patterns: A Hands-On Math Adventure for Kids!

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Ready for an easy experiment with only two supplies (that you likely have right now!)? Let’s take a look at moiré patterns!

What is a moiré pattern?

A moiré pattern is a pattern you can see when you place an opaque pattern on a transparent background, then place that over another similar pattern.

In today’s experiment, we’re going to use a few supplies to create moiré patterns. It’s super simple to set up and you can go as far in depth with your child about the patterns as you’d like. You can simply observe what happens or go into physics, optics, and math, depending on where your child is academically.

Let’s get started!

moire pattern math experiment for kids

How to make the Magical Moiré Patterns math and science experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

If you don’t have clear, plastic dinner plates, you could always use 2 Ziploc bags.

Before you start

It’s fun to try several different patterns out to see what happens. Be sure to experiment!

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your child:

Step 1: Use the marker to draw several parallel lines on one plate

Drawing vertical lines close to one another

On one of your clear plates, draw several lines parallel to one another, pretty close together.

Step 2: Draw several parallel lines on other plate, or mix it up

Drawing second set of vertical lines

On the second plate, you can either draw something similar to what you drew in the first step, or you can mix it up and try some different patterns (like concentric circles, made to look like a target).

Mix up the patterns! Here, we’re trying concentric circles

This is where you can experiment and see what produces patterns and what doesn’t!

Step 3: Place one plate on top of other plate and line up the drawings

Overlay two plates with patterns and move them around to see the moiré patterns

Once you have your lines drawn on the two plates, place them on top of one another.

Step 4: Slowly move top plate to show Moiré patterns

We’re going to leave the bottom plate still and move the top plate slowly. You should observe your moiré pattern changing shape.

Try moving at different angles, moving it slower and faster, or even changing up your patterns completely to see what happens!

Overlap different types of patterns

The math and science behind the Magical Moiré Patterns experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Art and creativity
  • Scientific observation
  • Fine motor skills

How it works

We can see moiré patterns when an opaque pattern with transparent gaps (or on a transparent background) is overlapped with a similar opaque pattern. When we offset or rotate one of the patterns, we see a change in the moiré pattern.

Moiré patterns are used in math and physics, but are also used in other real-world applications!

Moiré patterns are used in:

  • TV: if an actor is wearing a particular print, like certain striped prints, the moiré pattern will come across to the viewer
  • Marine navigation: used in shoreside beacons to designate the safest places to travel for ships
  • Counterfeit money: moiré patterns can even be used to detect counterfeit money by using a particular pattern overlaid on the banknote to highlight discrepancies

Art and creativity

Making moiré patterns involves experimenting with different shapes, designs, and colors. This activity encourages children to explore their creativity and artistic abilities.

Math and scientific observation

Moiré patterns involve geometry and mathematical concepts, such as angles, shapes, and spatial relationships. Children can learn and apply these mathematical principles while designing their patterns.

As children create moiré patterns, they may observe how slight adjustments can lead to significant changes in the visual appearance. This encourages them to observe, hypothesize, and draw conclusions from their experiments.

Fine motor skills

Drawing, tracing, and carefully aligning patterns require fine motor skills. Creating moiré patterns can help young children improve their hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

More experiments about patterns to try out with your child

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