The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics notes that almost three-fourths of fourth graders say that they enjoy learning about math. Play to your fourth grade students' interest in math by using creative geometry activities in the classroom that encourage the kids to analyze and classify polygons with different numbers of sides, understand the concepts of parallel and perpendicular and get a grip on symmetry, all skills they should be learning in this grade.
Instead of just counting the sides of polygons and naming how many they find, the typical fourth grader is more than ready to remember the correct vocabulary. Write a vocabulary list on a piece of poster board, including such words as polygon, triangle, quadrilateral, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon and octagon. You can also add vocabulary such as "regular pentagon" by explaining that a pentagon can have varying angles and lengths of sides, while a "regular pentagon" has equal angles and side lengths. Have the students write these words into a math notebook or on a piece of paper, drawing the shapes -- with a ruler -- next to the vocabulary. You can also use index cards, having the students use one card for each shape.
Analyze and Classify
After the students have a mastery over the appropriate geometry language that describes polygons, they are ready to take a critical eye to these shapes. Provide the students with an array of polygons, using both regular and irregular versions. Draw and cut out different sizes of each polygon, varying the angles for the ones that don't fit into the regular category. Spread the polygons on a table and have the students analyze the shapes based on the number of sides, length of lines and degrees of the angles. The students can then classify them by creating piles of like polygons or by sorting them into regular and not regular groups.
Take the polygons learning one step beyond sorting and classifying the shapes and use the different pieces to make a puzzle. Fourth grade students can take different polygons, in a variety of sizes, and fit them together to create larger shapes. The kids can create a large puzzle piece shape or, later on, use the polygons to make a collage picture. For example, the students can create a cat using triangles with different angles.
Polygons are all around your students. Help them to see that geometry isn't just part of math class by conducting a polygon hunt. This "I spy" type of activity can help the fourth graders to analyze shapes, distinguishing between polygons and non-polygon items. Have the kids look around the classroom and write up a list of items that are polygons. Add another layer of learning and show the students pictures of architecture, outdoor scenes or familiar places -- such as a baseball diamond -- and ask them to point to the polygons.
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