Geometry for Children (6/29/2000)
Mathematics and Computing Department
York College (CUNY)
Jamaica, New York 11451-0001
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (for additions, suggestions, and corrections)
The exposure that children have traditionally had to geometry at home and in lower
grades has been very limited. Typically students learn to give names to a variety
of shapes (e.g. rectangle, square, circle, sphere) and learn a few basic ideas about
area and perimeter. Since primary school teachers rarely have majored in mathematics, such
teachers understandably may not know about graph theory, tilings, polyhedra, etc.
Yet these are subjects that offer intriguing opportunities to introduce small children
to interesting geometry. Furthermore, again understandably, primary school teachers
are rarely aware of the role that geometry is playing in the development of many
applications and technologies (e.g. image reconstruction, robotics, telecommunications).
One approach to dealing with this situation is to develop materials for parents to
use with their children. Geometry projects for parents and students offer parent/child
interactions that parallel those that parents have with children learning to read
or improving their reading and writing skills. Not only does this allow parents to share
innovative looks at geometry with their children but it helps educate parents to
emerging trends in geometry and mathematics.
As part of a program at the elementary public schools that my son, now 8, attends,
which encourages parents to make in-class presentations related to their jobs, I
have presented interactive experiences for kindergartners, first graders, and second
graders dealing with geometry. To complement these presentations I have prepared work sheets
and accompanying notes for parents to repeat these activities in a more leisurely
manner with their children. Below are the materials that I prepared for these presentations:
Adventures in Geometry for Kindergartners
Activities include construction of a tetrahedron from an envelop; making cylindrical
and Möbius strip surfaces; traversing the edges of a graph (Euler circuits).
Adventures in Geometry for First Graders
Activities include learning how to interprete the barcodes that appear on letters that translate the zipcode into a machine readable form. Codes in general, in particular error-correction codes are also highlighted.
Adventures in Geometry for Second Graders
Activities include learning how to pack bins and schedule machines. Templetes for packing bins appear at the end.
Adventures in Geometry for Third Graders
Activities include learning how to compute the "taxicab" distance between two locations in an urban grid. Also, the optimum route for trick-or-treating is investigated. Coordinates help compute the taxicab distance between points and mention is made of the fact that in the taxicab plane there are many shortest routes between points.
I have developed some ideas about geometry for K-12 students, that emphasizes how broad the interests of geometers has become. Here are some geometry problems which illustrate some new directions I would like to see explored in lower grades. Surprisingly little geometry is currently taught, especially in grades K-6.
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