Monday Morning Math: Star Quilts


Happy Monday!  In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day our topic today is Star Quilts.  Here are some examples:

Here is the  Blue Day Star Quilt, probably of the A’aninin (Gros Ventre) in Montana, made in 1990-91.

Here’s the Fall Time Star (Bright Fall Day) Quilt by Marie Kinzel of the Lakota (Teton/Western Sioux) in South Dakota, made between 1968 and 1988. 

Created by Marie Kinzel (Marie Strong Heart Kinzel)

Below is the Earth and Sky Quilt created by Chantelle Blue Arm of Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux in South Dakota, made in 2014.  

Created by Chantelle Blue Arm

You can see many more examples at the National Museum of the American Indian.  I first read about them in the January 2021 issue of Crux Mathematicorum, published by the Canadian Mathematical Society. The article “Explorations in Indigenous Mathematics: No. 1” by Edward Doolittle begins:

The starblanket design is popular among the Indigenous peoples of the Plains region, particularly in quilted blanket designs, but also in other crafts. In the Plains Cree language, the word for star is atāhk and the word for blanket is akohp, so starblanket is atāhkakohp. Chief Ahtahkakoop, so named because “the stars blanketed the sky, more numerous and brighter than usual” the night he was born, was one of the first signatories of Treaty Six. Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation is named after the chief.

As explained in more depth in that article, these beautiful quilts lend themselves to math explorations. For example, and this will be familiar to anyone who had Problem Solving with me back in 2021:  How many tiles are there in a Star Quilt? (I added that the answer should have n in it, although each person needed to specify what n represented.) I remember enjoying reading these solutions, and I think people liked coming up with them, too.


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