Geometry: A Look at Shapes in Elementary Education
Sarah Game, Theresa Heppler, Allan Hardy, Laura Richardson, and Darren Vaughan
January 28 ^{t}^{h} , 2009 EDUC 4274 Dan Jarvis
Rationale
Geometry is important within the k6 mathematics curriculum for several reasons. First, it can be integrated with the other mathematics strands. For example, in measurement students can measure the sides and angles of shapes. Second, shapes come into play in our everyday life. From home improvements to architecture we see and use geometric shapes in a variety of ways. Third, geometry is often overlooked within the classroom even though it “is an area of study that many students and teachers enjoy because it offers such a wide range of opportunities for hands on exploration” (Small, 2008, 284). Finally, we believe geometry is an important strand of mathematics because it is an essential part of our lives and often we take our knowledge for geometry for granted. It is imperative that we as teachers do not overlook geometry and ensure we expose the students to this very important topic.
Research
The following is a list of common misconceptions and errors about geometry:
Error or misconception 
Description 
What teachers can do 
Vocabulary 
Students often confuse the names of 2D and 3D shapes 
Provide opportunities to compare and contrast shapes that are likely to be confused. Ask students to tell how they are different. 
Components of shapes 
Students might confuse the names of components of 3D shapes 
Emphasize the correct terminology 
Counting components of 3D shapes 
Having trouble counting vertices, edges, and faces 
Ask them to mark a starting point from where they count. Use of concrete objects. 
Identifying the base of a prism 
Students have trouble identifying the base of the prism 
Build prisms by stacking pattern blocks and emphasize that the base is not a rectangle 
Congruent edges on nets 
They eyeball the shape and find that nets don’t fold properly because they don’t take into account to match 
Encourage students to measure the edges of the shape they plan to duplicate. 
congruent edges 

Attributes and properties 
They confuse attributes of shapes with their properties 
They need the opportunity to explore each shape in many different forms and provide opportunities for students to examine and sort them 
Changes in orientation 
Students think the way a shape is oriented is part of what defines it. 
Working with concrete shapes such as pattern blocks and models to show shapes can be shown in different ways. 
Parallelogram and reflective symmetry 
Students think the diagonal of a parallelogram is the line of symmetry 
Provide many opportunities to test for symmetry by folding and using a transparent mirror. 
Group Members Thoughts and Reflections
(Small, 2008, 322325)
Laura Richardson
I have found that geometry is overlooked and underappreciated in schools and throughout our daily lives. While I was on my placement, I noticed that there were pictures of two dimensional and three dimensional shapes above and below the math board. These pictures were in an awkward spot and during my time there, they were never discussed. I personally disregarded them, as well as my associate teacher. After reading the text and finding information about geometry, I am aware of how present shapes are in the curriculum and in many professions. I can see how many teachers leave geometry until the end of the year to teach. One may see it as an easy topic to teach. Based on what I know now I would introduce geometry at the beginning of the year, because geometry can be linked to so many subjects and integrated into other math topics.
Darren Vaughan
Geometry to me has always been an exciting topic. I can remember back to my primary/junior years, I would be very enthusiastic and excited when we would get out the manipulative for geometry. In saying that, one of the biggest factors in teaching this subject area is the use of concrete materials. I have always been a handson learner and am well aware of the
importance of incorporating manipulatives into these lessons.
but we have to be sure to teach it a number of ways (including handson), as educators it is vital
that we realize that a number of our students may need concrete figures and shapes
Geometry is a fascinating subject
(manipulatives) to help them gain the knowledge and understanding of this very important subject.
Sarah Game
After researching geometric shapes, I feel that I have a better appreciation for this strand of math. It seems to me that as adults we take for granted our knowledge of shapes and I feel that children should be taught about 2D shapes and 3D figures because they are relevant within the classroom and without. Geometry is a strand of math which can be related to tangible objects that students can see and touch, making this type of math more concrete for students to understand. Shapes can also be the basis for cross curricular activities as well which makes shapes, 2D or 3D, valuable learning tools. I see the importance in the subject area and also feel that shapes can be difficult for students to correctly identify and understand because there are so many similarities between them. Since terminology and concepts can be quite confusing, especially for younger students, I believe that plenty of time must be allotted in long range plans for the Geometry and Spatial Sense unit. In my research, I found a number of educational websites which would be beneficial to all students and feel that if computers can be integrated into lessons it would be a great way for students to practice sorting shapes, learn new vocabulary, examine attributes and properties of shapes and it would also be a fun introduction to geometry. I know from experience, in my grade one placement class, that shapes interest students and if hands on activities and a variety of manipulatives are used, students can grasp concepts faster and they retain the new information more than if shapes were just drawn on a worksheet. This is the beauty of this strand, it allows for so many interactive activities and there are so many different ways that geometry can be taught that it is fun for students while they still learn important concepts
Allan Hardy
After reading about Geometry and teaching some geometry concepts on practicum I have come to realize that this is an enjoyable and important topic to teach. During my practicum I was shocked to discover that Geometry was not going to be part of this class’s unit test. In fact, we did not spend very much time on this topic at all. This was disappointing considering how much fun geometry can be and how important it is to math education. Using manipulatives and technology is key to many math topics but especially geometry. Relating geometry directly to the student is also extremely important when it comes to understanding. Overall, I have come to realize that learning geometry in a variety of fun and exciting ways is much needed in elementary mathematics and should be taught in every classroom.
Theresa Heppler
I believe that geometry and special sense are one of the most over looked and undervalued subjects within mathematics. At the same time geometry can be one of the most interesting and exciting for students to learn at the elementary level. The level of excitement
students experience is because of the hands on nature of geometry as well as the student’s ability to relate geometry to their everyday life. When students believe that the information they are learning is useful outside of the classroom, they are more likely to be interested in what is being taught. Manipulatives including pattern blocks, nets, cubes, miras, and geoboards are fantastic resources to enhance the geometry unit allowing students to learn in a hands on and exciting manner. Geometry and special sense should be treated as important as every other mathematical topic within the curriculum. As a teacher I will be certain to expose students to all topics of mathematics to ensure they are educated in a well rounded manner.
Developmental Analysis
Activity 
Previous Grade 
Current Grade 
Following Grade 
Shape Bingo 
Kindergarten 
Grade 1 
Grade 2 
Explore, sort, and compare traditional and nontraditional twodimensional shapes and three dimensional figures. 
Identify common two dimensional shapes and threedimensional figures and sort and classify them by their attributes 
Distinguish between the attributes of an object that are geometric properties and the attributes that are not geometric properties. 

Identify and describe, using common geometric terms, two dimensional shapes (e.g., triangle) and threedimensional figures (e.g., cone) through investigations with concrete materials 
Identify and describe various polygons and sort and classify them by their geometric properties. 

Identify and describe various three dimensional figures. 

Grade 3 
Grade 4 
Grade 5 

Building 3D skeletons with marshmallows 
Compare two dimensional and threedimensional figures and sort them by their geometric properties. 
Geometric relationships. Construct skeletons of threedimensional figures using a variety of tools (toothpicks and marshmallows) 
Identify and classify twodimensional shapes by side and angle properties and compare and sort threedimensional figures. 
Constructing 3D nets 
Grade 3 
Grade 4 
Grade 5 
Construct rectangular prisms and describe geometric properties of the prisms (using paper nets) 
Construct prisms and pyramids from given nets. 
Identify prisms and pyramids from their nets. 

Draw and describe nets of rectangular and triangular prisms. 
Construct nets of prisms and pyramids using a variety of tools. 

Guess the prism 
Grade 2 
Grade 3 
Grade 4 
Build a structure using three dimensional figures and describe the two dimensional shapes and the three dimensional figures in the structure 
Identify and describe the two dimensional shapes that can be found in a three dimensional figure 
Construct a three dimensional figure from the picture or model of the figure using connecting cubes. 

Construct skeletons and three dimensional figures using a variety of tools and sketch the skeletons. 
Handout
Shape Bingo
Grade One Overall Expectation: Identify common twodimensional shapes and threedimensional figures and sort and classify them by their attributes.
Specific Expectation: Identify and describe common two dimensional shapes (e.g. circle, triangles, rectangles, squares) and sort and classify them by their attributes (e.g. color; size; texture; number of sides), using concrete materials and pictorial representations. Identify and describe common three dimensional figures (e.g. cubes, cones, cylinders, spheres, rectangular prisms) and sort and classify them by their attributes (e.g. color; size; texture; number and shape of faces), using concrete materials and pictorial representations.
Shape Bingo Lesson (Grade 1):
• Explain and visually show the students they need to only have one kind of shape under each BINGO letter.
• Have them cut and paste the two and three dimensional shapes to their bingo sheets.
• Make sure to check the cards before beginning the game.
• If a child has made a mistake, have them cover the incorrect shape with a left over shape.
• Give them bingo chips to cover the shapes that are called.
• When calling the two and three dimensional shapes have a large visual of the shape with the name.
• This covers Stage 1: Visualizations  recognizing /naming figures / “look like”
• Talk about faces (flat surface), edges (lines of the shape), vertices (the points of the shape) when showing and calling the shape.
• It is good to have them work with both 2d and 3d shapes.
For older grades: First, call out all the components of the shapes.
think about what shape it might be and then show and tell them the shape you are talking about.
Give the class a minute to
Accommodations:
• This activity is hands on and has many visuals for the students to follow (ESL learners would benefit from this).
• Some children in your class may need a premade BINGO card, to avoid having them cut and paste the shapes.
• For special needs students that could not take part in this activity, I would have them help me at the front of the room holding and calling out the shapes.
• For gifted students, I would give them the shape and they would have to explain the attributes before telling the class what the shape is.
(Please see the appendix for shape bingo templates)
Building 3D skeletons
Expectations: Geometry and Spatial Sense Geometric Relationships
of threedimensional figures, using a variety of tools (e.g., straws and modeling clay, toothpicks
– construct skeletons
and marshmallows), and sketch the skeletons;
Accommodations: Students who are physically unable to use the concrete materials will be
assigned to work with an elbow partner.
constructed depending on their comprehension level.
Teacher will determine what shapes/figures will be
Materials:
Round toothpicks Miniature marshmallows (mildly stale)
Procedure:
• In the center of the work surface (table or grouped desks), each group will have sufficient marshmallows and toothpicks for construction of models.
• Demonstrate how to connect a toothpick to a marshmallow without pushing the toothpick all the way through the marshmallow.
• Ask each student to construct a triangle from three toothpicks and three marshmallows.
• Have some students describe their models to the class.
• Ask each student to construct a square from four toothpicks and four marshmallows.
• Have students explain the difference between a square and a triangle.
• Allow students to compare their triangles and squares to find the components of each shape (vertex, face, edge)
• In implementing this lesson for the use in higher grades, the teacher will incorporate different 3D shapes including cubes, pyramids etc.
• To conclude this exercise and check for student comprehension, Teacher will dictate a number of shapes and their components. Next the students will have to model each shape using the marshmallows and toothpicks (e.g., It has 4 vertices, 4 faces and 6 edges)
Constructing 3D Nets
Using what is called a net, students will build 3D shapes out of paper. The net looks like a flattened 3D shape and displays the faces that would be seen in the 3D version of the shape. For the purpose of this in class activity we have cut out the nets for you, within the classroom we would not do this. In grade 4 students are expected to build 3D shapes out of nets provided by the teacher. In grade 5 students are required to draw their own nets and then build them into 3D shapes.
Specific Expectation Grade 4:
• construct prisms and pyramids from given nets
• Identify and describe prisms and pyramids and classify them by their geometric properties (i.e. vertices and edges) Specific Expectations Grade 5:
• Student will draw nets of prisms and pyramids
• Identify prisms and pyramids from their nets Accommodations:
• Allow students to use tape to create nets, much easier than using glue
• Cut out and fold nets for students
• Assist students in filling out ‘Qualities of Your Shape’ sheet Materials Required:
• 3D shape nets
• Glue
• Scissors
• Tape
(Please see the Appendix for templates of nets)
Guess the Prism
Grade 3: Geometry and Spatial Sense
Expectation: Geometric Relationships: Identify and describe the twodimensional shapes that can be found in a threedimensional figure ( Sample Problem: Build a structure from blocks, toothpicks, or other concrete materials, and describe it using geometric terms, so that your partner will be able to build your structure without seeing it)
Materials:
Triangular, rectangular, hexagonal, pentagonal, and square pattern blocks
2 folders per pair, paper clipped and fastened so that they stand like a barrier between students
Activity:
1) 
Place the folder barrier in between pairs of students. 
2) 
Ask one partner to create a prism using the pattern blocks 
3) 
The other partner must asked the first questions ( using proper geometric terminology) so that they can figure out the 2d shapes making up the 3d model Ex. “How many faces does the first 2d shape have?” 
4)
When the partner has guessed what sort of 2d shapes make up the 3d shape, they can name the 3d model and then they become the builder and the partner becomes questioner ( the roles are reversed)
Assessment:
1)
Anecdotal notes: look for: proper use of terminology, accuracy, cooperation
Concept to stress: “One of the key concepts in geometry is that any shape can be created by either combining or dissecting other shapes” (Small, 2007, 309)
Notes from Small Text
• Structures/models help students learn about symmetry; how the properties of shapes affect the way you use them.
• can use pattern blocks to create models and pictures
• Having students build prisms from stacks of pattern blocks may help them see that the block shape they use to start and end the prism is the base, and what the lateral faces on this type of prism are always rectangles. Emphasize that there are only two bases on a prism, and they may or may not be rectangles.
Other types of manipulative to use:
• Tooth picks and modeling clay ( or marshmallows)
• straws and pipe cleaners
Accommodations:
• Use cards instead of models. For example, if you can’t make a model pick a card that has a prism on it.
• For students with hearing disabilities include cards with questions already prepared.
• For students visually impaired this activity could be made completely oral. Also, 3D models can be used to touch.
Bibliography
Small, Marian. Making Math Meaningful. Vol. 1. United States: Nelson, 2008
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/math.html#geometrygames
Appendix
Square Based Pyramid
Shape BINGO
Circle 






Triangle 






Cube 






Cones 






Spheres 






Rec tangular Prisms 






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