At the math center or similar area, have a container with toothpicks and half toothpicks or other sticks or rods in two lengths. Have the child take 3 sticks of any length and ask him to work to see how many different configurations he can make. Sides and corners must touch, so he will discover two short sides and one long side don’t work. See how many different shapes he can make with four sticks, then five or six sticks. Give child six rectangular blocks, three or more round blocks of the same size, and one tennis ball, cut in half. Let him experiment with the shapes and see what he creates.
Observe how the child experiments and talks about creations. Can he spontaneously name what he is making? If not, ask, “What did you make? What are these different triangles called?” Repeat with four, five and six sticks. See how many different 3-dimensional rectangles he can create. How many cylinders? How many spheres? Ask, “How can you create more rectangles? What would you need to make different cylinders or spheres? What would these shapes be called if you turn them?”
Note what he created with different numbers of sticks. Again, see if he can name what he has made. If not, tell him the name and explain the relationship of the sides. Note what he discovers when he tries to use five and six sticks of different lengths. Note whether the child sees that more configurations can be made with the rectangles of the same size than the cylinder or sphere parts. See if he knows the shape remains the same even in a different orientation.
Exploration of the relationship of corners, sides, and corresponding relationships is the basics of shapes. Allow children to create three-dimensional shapes and label them as they build so they learn the names within the context of their building. This is more meaningful than just labeling shapes seen on paper.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 2015
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