Maths GCSE: Hexagons in the natural world

Marcus du Sautoy visits a bee-keeper and explores how bees create their honeycombs.

If they are going to tessellate they have a limited number of regular polygons they could choose from, but the hexagon is the most efficient – giving the maximum storage area for the least amount of wax.

In fact, the bees do not create hexagons, but circular cells which, as is shown using bubble arrays, pull together to make hexagons due to surface tension.

This same principle is behind other polygon formations in the natural world too.

This clip is from the series The Code.

Teacher Notes

Use as an enrichment clip as part of a series of lessons on tessellation.

The bubble examples can, with a little practice, be replicated in the classroom using glycerin bubble mixture on a piece of transparency on an overhead projector.

Curriculum Notes

These clips will be relevant for teaching Maths at KS4 and GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/5 or Higher in Scotland.

The topics discussed will support OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC in England and Wales, CCEA in Northern Ireland and SQA in Scotland.