Rethinking Geometry Instruction: How to Think Holistically About Standards

Each year I continue to see teachers frustrated when they get their middle of year testing results back for their class because Geometry is often one of the lowest strands.  Over the years I have puzzled about why this is but have realized that most textbooks (ours included) waits to teach Geometry until the last couple of units.  So many teachers who rely heavily on the textbook do not teach Geometry until right before the state test.  Often this means students get told about geometry instead of getting the opportunity to experience it through hands on application and discussion.

So why do we wait until the last minute to teach geometry?

I would like to propose that we teach geometry throughout the year by incorporating geometric ideas into instruction of other standards.  I would argue that too often we teach skills in isolation and don’t connect the mathematical ideas.

In Kindergarten, instead of giving students random objects, have them count shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles, circles and as they develop the idea of cardinality have them confirm their count by labeling the objects.  For instance, if they count nine triangles, they would say “there are 9 triangles.”

Provide multiple types of triangles so that they can develop the idea that triangles come in all sizes and orientations and that counting does not have to be an object of a particular size or congruency.

Put out squares and ask students to get 18 squares or lay out circles and say how many circles are there?
Give students a geoboard and ask them to make a shape with 6 sides.  This is a great conversation starter and gives another context for counting while offering the opportunity to discuss shape names and properties.
When asking students to compare objects, ask them to compare a group of circles and a group of squares and ask which one has more?
Or provide a low floor, high ceiling task like this:
I have some shapes.  The total number of sides of all of my shapes is 21.  What shapes do I have?
Build arrays of multiple shapes and then ask how many sides are in the array? How many corners (or vertices).  Or build an array out of 3-D objects and ask how many faces are in the array.
Use the geometric subitizing cards by Graham Fletcher to have number talks about attributes.

Have students engage in conversation to solidify understanding and practice vocabulary with WODB sets like this one:
Look at your grade level standards for geometry.  Are there opportunities to teach geometric concepts through operations and algebraic reasoning?  Data?  Fractions?
Leave comments here or on twitter to share your ideas!
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2 thoughts on “Rethinking Geometry Instruction: How to Think Holistically About Standards

  1. We were just discussing this in Kindergarten and 1st grade team meetings this week. We want to revise our curriculum map to incorporate geometry and data throughout the year with the other strands, especially at the beginning of the year. Like you mentioned when you’re learning numbers, why not learn them by working with shapes or recording data.

    Liked by 1 person

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