Teach the Earth > Mineralogy > Teaching Activities > Space Group Symmetry

Space Group Symmetry

Joseph Smyth
University of Colorado at Boulder
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: Jul 8, 2009


This assignment tasks students with determining symmetry axes and identifying Hermann-Mauguin symbols for space groups based on a symmetry diagram.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This problem set is designed for an undergraduate course in mineralogy for majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a basic understanding of crystal symmetry and Hermann-Mauguin nomenclature.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise used as a homework assignment.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity aids in student understanding and interpretation of crystal symmetry diagrams.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

In this problem set, students are given space group symmetry diagrams for primitive (P) orthorhombic space groups. For each diagram they must write down the symmetry axis (either 2 or 21) that is parallel to each major axis, and give the symmetry plane (a, b, c, n, or m) that is normal (perpendicular)to each. They must also give the simplified Hermann-Mauguin symbol for the space group.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have successfully met the goals of the assignment if they answer the problem set thoroughly and accurately.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

This problem set is the 3rd of 10 homework assignments used in a Mineralogy course.
You can also access the course syllabus which includes lecture Powerpoints, practice exams, and links to the other problem sets used in this course.

New TTE Logo Small

Mineralogy resources from across Teach the Earth »

Mineralogy resources from Teach the Earth include:

Specialized collections including

or search