Monday, March 26, 2007

Why Teach Symmetry?

Teachers often find themselves defending their reasons for teaching a topic, thus it is important to be knowledgeable about the benefits of certain areas of study. Symmetry is one such topic. It seems to be such a small aspect of the study of Geometry, however it is an integral component connecting Mathematics to the real world. There is much information on why teachers should teach symmetry, and the following are the points we feel are the most important.

Christy Knuchel states that there are a number of benefits to the students in the study of symmetry. Symmetry can be found in everyday items, however the connections to Mathematics are rarely noted. Teaching Mathematics involves more than simply adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. The study of symmetry and its properties instills an awareness that mathematics is truly used throughout our lives (Knuchel). Symmetry, in the real world, is expressed in many pieces of art, for example, quilts are highly mathematical in their creation, and depict how symmetry and mathematics are linked to real-life uses.

A number of reasons for teaching symmetry are outlined in the article Picture This: Second Graders "See" Symmetry and Reflection. The first point states that children have an innate sense of symmetry, in that they look for balance and order in the real world naturally. As teachers, it is important to build on this inner ability, as it is appealing to students. In addition, students are better able to learn a concept when they can relate to it, therefore teaching symmetry gives all students a chance for success.

Another point notes that learning about symmetry aids students in learning how to "classify objects according to the arrangement of their constituent parts." Ordering and classification are skills that are used throughout many daily tasks, and the ability to notice patterns or similarities will make these tasks much easier to carry out.

The study of symmetry in schools looks beyond geometric forms to organic shapes, meaning animals, plants, everyday items, etc. Johnson and Bomholt comment that children have a natural curiosity about the world around them, and learning about symmetry encourages this interest.

Lastly, children learn concepts about geometric shapes at a very early age. They learn, first, about a shape as a whole, but, with the help of symmetry, children learn how to focus on the characteristics and parts of an object.

These points may assist teachers in their reasoning for why they should teach symmetry in their classroom. Furthermore, the teaching of symmetry holds great importance in the development of mathematical minds of students as it gives students a different perspective of the world around them.