Monday, March 26, 2007

Suggestions for Teaching Symmetry in the Primary/Elementary Grades

As previously mentioned, symmetry lends itself to many subjects, especially Mathematics, Science and Art. The internet provides many great suggestions for how to teach symmetry. This post will offer some suggestions on what to consider when implementing a unit on symmetry.

When teaching symmetry, it is important to note the various terms associated with it. The terms presented in the first blog posting will aid in the teaching of symmetry.

Materials are an important aspect to the implementation of lessons on symmetry. Students begin learning about symmetry with the concept of reflective symmetry in grade three. To best teach this concept, reflective materials, such as a mira, can be very useful in identifying reflective symmetry of any object.

When learning the concepts of flipping, rotating and sliding, manipulatives are great as students can use a variety of shapes and physically move the objects, such as pattern blocks. Geoboards are a useful tool as well. Students can be placed in pairs, with a geoboard: one student creates a shape, and the other shows its flip, rotation or slide. Again, the mira can be used to check and see if the flip, rotation or slide is correct.

Tracing paper is another useful tool, as students can trace an image onto the tracing paper, then rotate, flip or slide it to learn about its symmetrical properties.

The authors of the article The Earliest Geometry note that children begin forming concepts about shape before they enter school, and they are able to relate shapes to real-life objects. An example of this is the relationship made between a rectangle and a door. In this case, it is important, as teachers, to remember to make such connections when teaching symmetry. Allow students to relate new information to what they already know.

With regards to Science, symmetry can be taught with reference to a variety of natural organisms. Children are familiar with the shape of butterflies, leaves and shells, and this allows the concept of symmetry to easily be related.

As previously discussed, many art forms are created with the use of symmetry. Symmetry is appealing to the eye, therefore many artists base their work around symmetrical shapes. Encouraging students to create their own shapes and designs with the concepts of symmetry in mind, allows them to form their own understandings of symmetry and what constitutes as being symmetrical.

There are many other suggestions for the instruction of symmetry listed in the curriculum documents.