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Shapes are Everywhere


Tuesday 05 February 2019

Maths was never my thing. I am proof that just because something has been taught, it does not mean it has been learned. I don’t know how many maths classes I sat through up to my Leaving Cert... but I never understood the relevance of trigonometry and theorems. Beyond arithmetic I was lost… and was first in the queue to buy a calculator! But geometry was different. The shapes and patterns interested me. I loved the shapes in architecture: arches and doorways, windows and balconies. I loved the shapes in nature: looking up at clouds, the silhouettes of tree branches against the sky, the shapes in ice when it cracks, in weather like we have had the last week. When I studied Montessori in college, the geometry material was my favourite. And it was at that age, using the Montessori material, that fractions made much more sense.

So, with shapes all around us, we really don’t need flashcards and lessons on shapes in toddler rooms and preschool rooms. Aistear’s principle play and hands-on experiences, encourages us to think about how children, in play, use their body, their mind, their feelings, and their senses. Another Aistear principle talks about relevant and meaningful experiences, saying that these kinds of experiences make learning more enjoyable and positive for children.

One-dimensional items, like flash cards, don’t provide for this. They are too abstract. Instead, it is better to have real, concrete materials. It is better to bring children out for walks, and together explore the shapes and colours that are naturally around us. Go for walks, look at the buildings, look at the trees and plants. Talk about the shapes of windows and doors. If you’re passing a castle, a church, a fountain, or town hall look at the windows, the roof, the doors. No need for research, just talk, draw attention to and take some photos (you and the children), so the conversation can carry on back at base.

Showing photos like this:

is meaningless, until you go outside and find some ice in a bucket, the top of the sand tray or in a puddle and ask the children to smash it. Hold the shapes, feel the cold, see it melt…then the image takes on meaning.

So, start the geometry… just tell no one that’s what you’re doing! You’re all having fun! 


Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester at Pen Green.

"Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play!"

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