Teach the Earth > Mineralogy > Teaching Activities > Symmetry


Dexter Perkins
University of North Dakota
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 7, 2006


This is an introduction to the basic symmetry elements.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This exercise is designed for a mid/upper-level undergraduate geology course on the principles of mineralogy.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have knowledge of basic chemistry and of minerals equivalent to what they would learn in an introductory geology class.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is the 23rd of 36 mineralogy exercises and is used towards the end of the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Be able to identify symmetry in atomic strutures, crystals or other objects.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Develop ability to recognize patterns and deal with abstract concepts.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This is an introduction to basic symmetry elements. Students make drawings that show good examples of rotation axes and mirror planes and inversion centers with and without a 2-fold axis. They describe real objects a mirror plane, an inversion center, and 2, 3, 4, and 6-fold axes in 3D. They think about symmetry in atomic structures and indicate which symmetry elements are present in ball and stick models of minerals. Then they count the different kinds of symmetry elements present in wooden blocks and real minerals.

Determining whether students have met the goals

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

New TTE Logo Small

Mineralogy resources from across Teach the Earth »

Mineralogy resources from Teach the Earth include:

Specialized collections including

or search