March 12, 2012

Hands-on Geometry - Part I

Guest Blog post by Stephanie Moorman of Teaching in Room 6

Measurement and geometry standards span all grade levels. Because of this repeated exposure, you would think that the students would grasp the concepts easily.  However, that just isn’t so. Identifying various polygons and solid shapes, breaking them down into their basic lines and angles, discovering the perimeter and area of a shape is sometimes tricky for the students.  Especially when most of the time the work the students are doing is from a text book.

In an effort to help my students more clearly grasp the Measurement and Geometry standards, I have tried hard to break away from the book and use hands-on strategies to introduce and reinforce concepts.  Here are a few of the activities and lessons I have done in the past to teach my students measurement and geometry. Next week in Part II of this blog post, I'll share a few more.

Identifying various two-dimensional shapes can be rather boring when simply looking in a book.  One thing I have done to get my students more actively involved in their learning is to break out my trusty stack of magazines.

The students divide their paper into 5 columns, one for each of the basic polygons we are learning.  If you are learning more (ie: equilateral triangle, scalene, isosceles  or the various different types of quadrilaterals) just divide your paper into the appropriate amount of columns.  At the top of the page, I have the students draw the regular polygon and we list the attributes.  Then, they are off.  The students search the magazine for pictures of the polygons, cut them out, and glue them under the proper column heading.

Solid Figures
Once the students enter into the realm of three-dimensional solid figures, using the book definitely doesn’t cut it.  So there are several things I do to get the kids thinking, and learning, about solid figures.

I always introduce the figures with pictures.  We look at plain, generic solids, and I ask the students to tell me objects they have seen that would match those shapes.  Kids always mention things like ice cream cones for the cone shape, soda can for a cylinder, dice for a cube, a pyramid for a square pyramid, and a book for a rectangular prism.  I then have them go home that night and search for actual objects that would fit into the categories.  They write down all the objects they can, and bring one of their choice in.  The next day, we all categorize the found objects.You can download this chart by clicking on the image; the chart is page 2 of the freebie which includes a worksheet for next week's activity, too.

Food is always a hit with the students.  Actually creating solid figures out of marshmallows and toothpicks is a wonderful way to get the kids thinking.  We discuss the vertices, edges, and faces for each solid figure, and the students set about building them.

Nets of Solids
Using the marshmallow figures described above, I have the students deconstruct them and create the nets.  This is VERY difficult for them, mostly because once you take some of the toothpicks out of the marshmallows, there are edges missing!  The students need to figure out that they have to add the toothpicks and marshmallows to create the whole.  It is interesting to see who gets this concept.

Another thing I have done with nets is to give the students a piece of paper and let them create the nets.  Kids must figure out that the circles on a cylinder must be the same diameter as the length of the rectangle.  They need to use all of the same size squares for a cube.  Everything needs to be very precise or it just won’t work!

Angles and Lines
I am big on kinesthetic learning. Because of this, I have a lot of motions and gestures instilled in my teaching of concepts to help the kids better understand.  When it comes to angles, we get moving a lot!  Using their arms, I have the students show me each type of angle and line as best they can.  The kids really get into it!  When I say “parallel lines”, their arms always move up over their heads in two straight lines.  When I say “ray”, their arm extends out and they point off in one direction.  An “obtuse angle” has two arms, one extended out straight from their body and the other at a large angle.  The kids LOVE moving around, and it really helps them remember all of the different angles and lines.

So there you have it!  These are some simple ways to get your kids actively involved in learning the Measurement and Geometry standards.  There are SO many more ways to have a hands-on experience with these standards, and I'll be share a few more with you next week. I'll also be including a Hands-on Geometry freebie for you to customize!  If you have ideas to share, please leave a comment and let us all know!

Stephanie Moorman is a 5th grade teacher who has been teaching elementary school for 14 years. She has her Masters in Education and is Nationally Board Certified. She is the creator of the Teaching in Room 6 blog where she enjoys sharing her strategies with others.


  1. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love this post. I have a "Math Madness" gathering after school for any students grades 3-5 who want to attend. This entire blog will lend itself well into that setting. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Replies
    1. I think at the time math is very difficult subject, parents should help kids in solving math problems. and about 12 sided I want to share a simple definition as-12 sided polygon is called as dodecagon, This is one type of regular polygons, it may be regular or irregular. It’s a 12 sided closed figure.
      Area of a Regular Polygon


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.