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'Straight to Curves' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/

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For this activity, you'll need:

  • A square piece of plain paper (side length of $15$-$20$cm would work well)
  • Several sheets of differently coloured or patterned paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • A sheet of plain backing paper, larger than your square piece of paper
Cut three or four strips of paper from different sheets of the coloured or patterned paper. These strips should be the same length as the side of your square sheet of paper but they can be different widths.

Stick the strips onto the square of paper so that they are parallel to each other and parallel to the sides of the square, like this:


On the other side of the square piece of paper, mark out straight lines that are about $1$cm apart, parallel to each other and at right angles to the coloured strips.

Cut along these lines so that you are left with many strips of equal length and equal width, like these:


How could you make a curve using these straight strips of paper?

Experiment with the strips, laying them out on the sheet of backing paper. Stick them down when you are happy with your curve.

Could you make a different curve?

This activity is based on an idea in Mathematics Through Art and Design published by Collins Educational.