Saturday, April 9, 2011

Geometric Thinking Skills in Early Childhood

In the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) journal, Teaching Children Mathematics, Carmen S. Brown describes in her article More Than Just Number [1] how children in preschool and younger are already well-versed in thinking about shapes and using geometry in their everyday lives. In fact, Brown's research suggests that in early childhood, geometrical thinking skills are stronger than basic number skills and help the the young mind prepare for more abstract number concepts. By providing a fun and encouraging learning environment for geometrical learning, parents and teachers can provide a strong mathematical foundation for their students as they begin to comprehend shapes, their attributes, and how they all relate to numbers in general.

In fact, geometry skills are developed most naturally during play - starting in infancy. All the time spent with building blocks and shape-sorting toys is good fun, but it's also the first and most efficient way that children can begin to comprehend the basic concepts of geometry, like matching and sorting, that they will build upon when they enter elementary school. As they are learning about squares, circles, triangles, and rectangles, even infants are beginning to see relationships between the shapes, their colors, and their other attributes as well as formulating ideas around symmetry and the spatial relationships of the shapes.

Brown describes the characteristics of ideal environments for children to learn geometry. It's important to use geometric language, like point, lines, angles, and corners, to encourage the development of a math vocabulary and introduce the terminology so it can be used in everyday life. This is especially important when using Peaksmart with children who may not yet be able to read. We described some of our experiences with one of our earliest and youngest Peaksmart users in earlier posts. Whether the parent or teacher reads the questions out loud or uses the audio button available in all Peaksmart quiz quesitons, it is important to use the correct terminology when describing shapes, even if the student is just beginning to understand the concepts behind the new terms. 

Brown goes on to describe how playing and experimenting with shapes in multiple ways at an early age allows children to conceptualize things like height, width, length, volume, and weight. Of course, once these concepts are learned, the ability to compare and contrast the attributes of these shapes is not far off. Peaksmart supports our learners with plenty of practice problems aimed at classification by color, color and shape, as well as sorting by color, shape, size, and type.

Peaksmart continues to add to the toolkit our parents and teachers need to help guide preschool through 3rd grade students through the basic concepts of geometry with practices and lessons. Here are some of our practices involving shapes, symmetry, and spatial relationships that are excellent for younger Peaksmarters. Additionally, we have new lessons available to help explain the geometric concepts that Peaksmart provides regarding 2D and 3D shapes.  

1. Teaching Children Mathematics, Carmen S. Brown, Teaching Children Mathematics, April 2009, Volume 15, Issue 8, Page 474

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