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Teaching Shape In Nursery


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Hello all I need your thoughts on the teaching of 2D shape. We recently had a staff meeting in which the way we teach shape in both 3 and 2 dimensions was discussed at length. I won't go into all of it but the upshot was that we should not teach 2D shapes with ones that could be picked up e.g. logi blocks or even laminated shapes that had been cut into squares, circles etc. The reason being that any shape that could be picked up has edges (even though on said card shapes the edges are microscopic thin) Now I can see that with logi blocks the edge is quite wide and therefore gives a face to the sides. However, I am struggling to teach the concept of 2D shapes.

 

I have been on amazon had had a look at some books about EY maths and shapes (the 'look inside' option has shown me that some books tell us to teach using card 2D flat shapes- as we had done in the past) If this is coming from experts in the field, I just wonder if our maths co-ordinator and indeed Head are, dare i suggest it, misguided in their belief that we should not teach 2D shapes using card cut outs????

 

Can anyone enlighten me as to the best method to teach 2D shapes. We do use 3D shapes initially and introduce vocabulary through this. Our co-hort last year were fab with 3D but when it comes to 2D some where still struggling.

 

Any help would be gratefully received or links to sites or books which could help clarify this.

Apple :o

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Can you not teach the face names from the 3d shapes? I have started approaching shape in this way but with year1.

I have explained the difference to them as 3d shapes we can build with, 2d we cant they are flat and made sure the shapes I presented to them are as thin as possible although technically of course this is not quite accurrate and it has worried me that I am wrong. It has made me realise that a lot of our mathematics teaching is incorrect. We have consequently spent a lot of time differentiaiting the 2d and 3d shapes and names.

 

When I was in Reception I used to spend a long time teaching circle rather than round which always seemed to be ingrained from their pre school experiences. Little children always muddle triangle and rectangle too so I think we should be teaching oblong-- which is such a lovely word, I remember being fascinated by that as a small child!

 

My other horror is that children tell you a circle has no edges!

 

Can you not concentrate on introducing and using the correct vocab and terminology, if children are sorting and matching shapes according to their properties etc and using this knowledge in their play is that not sufficient?

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Good thought from Susan, but maybe your HT/Coordinator could enlighten us all on how children at early stages of cognitive development are supposed to develop abstract concepts of shape witout being able to use a kinaesthetic approach.

 

 

cx

Edited by catma
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Catma you are so right about the kinaesthetic approach; I certainly wish the Head & co-ordinator could realise that this is a big part of how young children learn. And yes Susan we do approach the teaching of the 2D shapes through the 3D but it still leaves us with a gap of experience i.e. touching and sorting the 2D shapes.

 

And Sue you have really thrown the spanner in the works re "When I was in Reception I used to spend a long time teaching circle rather than round" I had no idea about this- are you saying a circle is not a circle but a round?

I also agree that it would be better to teach oblong as the problems tend to arise for some children with triangle and rectangle... hhhmmm more work is needed to cement my own knoweldge :o

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Many moons ago when i first trained as a teacher, we were told we should teach 3D shape first for this very reason. You can pick them up, touch and handle them, explore their properties etc. Plus, children's early experiences are of 3D shape whether it be from construction materials or their first ball. They also love saying those long words like triangular prism.

 

Being a 'mathematical purist' in many ways, I do tend to agree with this, mathematically it is correct. 2D shape only exists in 2 dimensions, therefore it cannot be picked up and handled. It is by its nature, abstract. So when we see books and pictures of 'shape' they show first 2D shape because in fact they are 2D. A circle is easier to represent in 2D than a sphere is.

 

I find myself teaching the 3D shape names alongside their natural play with objects, as we move away from their everyday language ..round; box; tube to the more mathematical terms cube, cylinder etc. Ive always found the vast majority of chidlren pick this up in a quite straightforward way. I would then go onto talk about the faces as Susan says.

 

But I do live in the real world too, and because children are exposed to 2D shapes taught as something you can handle, they will have that view and that experience, just as they will have heard rectangle umpteen times more often than oblong (which I also always taught without problem).

 

So we tend to end up with a 'culturally accepted' view of a mathematical idea, and one that is 'technically correct'. (I recall having a similar argument with my brother years ago about 'ellipse' and 'oval')

 

My question would be really, is learning the culturally accepted view going to actually damage their understanding of mathematical ideas later on? (bearing in mind that culture influences every aspect of our lives). I expect this has been researched at some point. In the case of the oblong, then yes it could, as children have to 'unlearn' something they have viewed as correct for many years. But in the case of 2d shape cannot be made from card, hmm Im not sure. Does it really cause any difficulties for most children?

 

Hmm, debate on...

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Hi Mundia

thank you for that insightful reply. Yes indeed we do start with the 3D shapes and you are so right about children enjoying the sound of the mathematically correct language they learn as we teach them- they pick up and use the maths vocab in much the same way we teach phoneme and grapheme in reception.

My big struggle is with being asked not to use flat card shapes- technically no they are 3D as you say they can be picked up, but I am on the same bench as you in asking really, is it damaging the majority of children's understanding of shapes, especially if we are introducing the 3D ones first and alongside the flat shapes?

 

I also think we need to return to the oblong debate too- but first we would have to do a lot of work with parents in order for them to learn about shape too!

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And Sue you have really thrown the spanner in the works re "When I was in Reception I used to spend a long time teaching circle rather than round" I had no idea about this- are you saying a circle is not a circle but a round?

 

No I am not suggesting that. The children who came to me always seemed to have been taught the term round rather than circle. I agree a circle is round, it has a curved side but they did not know the name circle and would always call a circle a round!

 

Hope that is clearer.

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Just to throw a further spanner into the 'oblong/rectangle' debate, I was taught that an oblong did not necessarily have90' corners, it could in fact be a rounded 'corner' shape, or even a trapezium or rhomboid. Rectangle, as you say, applies to any straight-sided 90' corner shape, so equally applies to a square.

 

Methinks we need a new word!!

 

I generally check with the reception teacher to find what she prefers

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I made a couple of simple SMART activities so the shape pics are on the whiteboard and so are flat! I would attach them except that I've only got them saved at work and since we were all told to change our passwords to increase security I've not been able to connect to the VPN from home so I can't get them, so I'll describes them instead.

 

The first one had a page for each shape with the shape and the name of the shape on each page, then a page where I had a coloured background, then I made 4 different shapes then copied and pasted them. I made the colours of the fill and line of the 4 copied shapes white and locked them onto the page in the middle and had the 4 original coloured shapes around the edges so the children could move them about. The activity was to match the coloured shapes onto their white silhouette version a bit like a virtual inset puzzle. Whilst looking at the first pages we counted the sides and corners and used lots of language to describe the shapes.

 

The second activity again had a page for each shape. I made the background coloured then made a different large shape on each page. Next I made the pen the same colour as the background and coloured all over the top of the shapes with it so it looks like an empty page. We then used the eraser tool to reveal the shapes bit by bit, asking the children to guess what shape it was (e.g. reveal one corner and ask what it is, if they say square ask them how many corners we'll find if it's a square etc.) Make sure that when you use this you don't save the changes or you'll have to colour over the shapes again and mix the pages up regularly otherwise the children quickly learn what order the shapes come in and know what shape comes next before you even start to reveal it!

 

I hope all that makes sense and is of some help to you. If I've made no sense let me know and I'll try and explain myself a bit better!

 

Oh and by the way, we had a similar debate about rectangle versus oblong a few years ago and decided we should teach both because both names are in common usage, but officially... a square is a rectangle and an oblong is a rectangle but a square isn't an oblong! As I understand it, a rectangle is a 4 sided right angle shape where the opposite sides are the same length. A square is a rectangle where all the sides are the same length and an oblong is a rectangle with 2 long and 2 short sides. Clear as mud?! I could be wrong though, it's a long time since I learnt it!!

 

Oh yeah and in regards to the cardboard shapes, I can see the point about the cardboard shapes but it does seem a little extreme! What about having flash cards with the picture of the shape on rather than having the card cut into the shapes? That way the actual shape doesn't have edges, only the piece of card that the shape is on. It does mean though that the children can't do many practical things with them, like tessellation, which they can learn a lot from...

Edited by Guest
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thank you missblinx for that lovely idea on the whiteboard and the definition of an oblong which always makes my head spin :o

another spanner in our shape debate is the word rhombus which we always use and when the children begin to use this at home the parents are always blown away by their child's mathematical understanding!!

 

I made lots of cards last year with pictures of different size squares, triangles etc on- getting round that fact that it isn't the shape that is cut out - it just seems a shame that they cannot handle it in the same way to feel those sides and corners.

thank you to all though for helping, i very much appreciate you all xD

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Just to throw a further spanner into the 'oblong/rectangle' debate, I was taught that an oblong did not necessarily have90' corners, it could in fact be a rounded 'corner' shape, or even a trapezium or rhomboid. Rectangle, as you say, applies to any straight-sided 90' corner shape, so equally applies to a square.

 

Sadly Cait you were misstaught this. Missblinx's explanation is quite correct because an oblong is a type of rectangle, it must have 90 degree corner angles by definition.

 

Trapezium ad rhomboid have different meanings dependent on which side of the pond you live.

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The free dictionary definition

 

ob·long (blông, -lng)

adj.

1. Deviating from a square, circular, or spherical form by being elongated in one direction.

2. Having the shape of or resembling a rectangle or an ellipse.

3. Botany Having a somewhat elongated form with approximately parallel sides: an oblong leaf.

n.

An object or figure, such as a rectangle, with an elongated shape.

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Ooo Cait, I've just googled it and it seems that there's a lot of difference of opinion with this, but most people say what you said, basically that it's an elongated shape but it doesn't matter whether it's got square or round corners. I think I'll have to pass this on to our maths coordinator to sort out! Maybe it's an english vs american thing like mundia said with the trapezium and rhomboid...

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Yes there are different meaning to many words including these across the oceans. Also we have mathematical meaning and generic meaning, which is one reason why mathematical language is often difficult for children to understand.

 

So all of these words have different mathematical meanings from their more everyday use.

 

odd and even

right and left

prime

difference

volume

take away

plane

face

the list goes on.

 

So although modern dictionaries give 'general usage' definitions, (and most online ones I think are American in origin), the mathematical meaning of oblong is as described above. Probably the easiest one I've read is 'a rectangle that isn't a square' Short sweet and to the point.

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