Discovering Geometry Together
Language is a key part of family time. We listen and speak to one another and enjoy books together. Math can be a natural part of life as well.
Math is everywhere. It is not just part of a school day, but a part of life itself. Adding costs at the grocery store, noting shapes and angles of buildings, and discovering the distance between spaces are just a few ways we find math in our daily lives.
Here is a definition of mathematics according to Webster’s Dictionary (1992) math’e-mat’ics “n. arithmetic, geometry, algebra, etc., and the science of reasoning which builds upon these”
Today I’d like to share a few ways to help children of various stages start recognizing the fun geometry can be. It is all about discovery, and you being there to guide them.
1: Finding angles
Every corner of a square is a “right angle.” This is also referred to as a 90 degree angle. If we add up the interior angles of a square, 90 each, we will have 360o total. This is the same number of degrees as a full rotation. A clock’s minute hand has turned 360 degrees after one hour has passed.
More fun discoveries:
Look at the base of an office chair. How many angles are there total? Perhaps it is five. The spaces between the legs form angles. Each one has the same number of degrees. To discover how many degrees each angle is, find 360 divided by 5. The result will tell you the angles between each leg of the office chair. Finding angles like this can be an activity while waiting in the doctor’s office.
Here is a picture from a botanical garden.
Look at the angles found in this garden structure.
Find a 90 degree angle by following two of the lines to the center of the circle (perhaps lines from 12:00 to 3:00). Note how many spaces are in between those two lines.
Divide 90 degrees by the number of spaces. The result tells how many degrees are between each of the arms of the structure.
2: Noticing shapes
There are shapes everywhere. Young children learn shapes in a classroom setting, often on paper. Why not help them notice shapes in the world around them? Point out the basic shapes of buildings, signs, and other things you see as you take a walk together. Time together communicates that you value your child. Time spent noticing shapes tells him or her that you care about discovering things together.
More fun discoveries:
Take pictures of places. Print them out on basic paper. Ask your child to find shapes with you! Use a pencil to draw an example shape you found. Explain what you are doing and invite your child to do the same. You may want to use pencil first, because it can be erased, and then trace over it with marker. In the classroom setting it is fun to take the pictures and then present them on an interactive smart board. Students can come to the board and trace the large shapes using their gross motor skills. Those images marked with digital ink can be saved and shared again later as review.
3: Discovering rotations
Children love being active. One of my favorite activities with elementary math students is showing them how to jump and turn 90, 180, 270, and then challenging ourselves to a full 360 degree rotation.
More fun discoveries:
Why not practice using some Olympic level math? In PyeongChang (2018) gold medalist Chloe Kim topped her own score on the snowboard in the Women’s Halfpipe. At seventeen Chloe Kim completed two back-to-back 1080 rotations. Here’s a link to footage of this event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsP0fzKi6Ac (it’s just less than 3 minutes long). After watching this phenomenal run down the halfpipe, invite your students to find out how many full rotations were in the 1080's Ms. Kim completed in the air. 1080 divided by 360 will give us that fun answer. Double it and we will know how many full turns she did in the air with two 1080’s in the air.
There are so many other ways to spend time with your children discovering how geometry is all around us. I hope that these ideas are just a springboard for your time together!
What fun math activities does your family already do together?
How will you communicate the value of math to your child?
1 Mathematics. (1992). Webster’s Dictionary (p.113). New York, New York: PMC Publishing Company.