To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Subject: Teaching geometry to elementary school students
In elementary school the study of geometry should be informal but not unstructured. The use of informal terms and expressions should be accepted. For example, both teachers and students can use terms such as "corners", "square corners", "flips", and "slides". These terms eventually will be replaced, respectively, with the formal terms "vertices", "right angles", "reflections", and "translations". By frequently talking about what they are doing, children's descriptions will become more precise and correct. In order to make good decisions about the type of activities suitable for students, you must try to discern their geometric thinking level. Engaging the students in "open-ended" geometry explorations is one way to accomplish this. The following are examples of open-ended tasks: 1.Draw as many different four-sided figures as you can. Write about how they are different and how they are the same. 2.Choose a block. Use sticks and marshmallows to make a skeleton model of the shape. Sharing in these tasks enable students to see relationships that they might not have seen if left to themselves. Geometry is an opportunity to connect mathematics to the child's world. Choose activities that involve the recognition and classification of shapes and figures, and operations on objects that are familiar to the child. A collection of boxes and other containers that the children bring to school can be the focus of discussions about different shapes and figures. A "geometry walk" on a city street or on a nature trail can serve to connect geometry work to the environment.
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