Geometry for Children (6/29/2000)

Prepared by:

Joseph Malkevitch
Mathematics and Computing Department
York College (CUNY)
Jamaica, New York 11451-0001

Email: malkevitch@york.cuny.edu (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:

Activities include construction of a tetrahedron from an envelop; making cylindrical and Möbius strip surfaces; traversing the edges of a graph (Euler circuits).

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.