Symmetry is a math concept that even young children can learn if you give them a clear explanation of it and provide opportunities for hands-on exploration. Make symmetry engaging by teaching it using a variety of whole group and small group activities that will challenge children while allowing them to express their creativity.
“Scholastic Teachers” suggests teaching symmetry by doing a whole group lesson that demonstrates the basic principles of symmetry. Provide each child a lined or dotted piece of paper along with a pair of scissors, or complete the demonstration yourself depending on the age group. Begin the lesson by showing children how to successfully fold their paper in half; then teach them how to cut out a triangle along the folded side. Encourage children to predict what the paper will look like after they unfold it. Once the students unfold their papers, discuss how the shapes on each side of the fold are alike, and explain that this is what symmetry means.
Make sure that children understand the word "symmetry" and the different types of symmetry. Younger children can learn about reflection or mirror symmetry, while older kids can be taught about rotational or point symmetry as well. According to “Math Is Fun,” a website that supplements math curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through 12, symmetry exists “when one shape becomes exactly like another if you flip, slide or turn it.” Older students may be able to understand symmetry as “correspondence between pairs of points that are equally positioned about a point, line or plane,” as defined by experts at “EscherMath.”
Children can work individually, in pairs or in small groups to further explore the meaning of symmetry. When teaching line symmetry, give children different shapes or pictures with lines drawn on them, and invite them to test whether they're symmetrical by folding along the lines. You can also give kids shapes or pictures with no lines, and challenge them to draw correct lines of symmetry. Older children can learn about rotational symmetry by exploring pictures or using online tools, suggests the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. For example, IXL Learning features an online activity that requires kids to figure out which pictures have rotational symmetry and which ones don't.
Give children opportunities to make their own creations using symmetry. The Education website features a simple symmetry art project, where children learn about symmetry by making a squished paint print. This project can be completed by having children put paint on one side of a piece of paper, fold it in half and unfold it to reveal an identical pattern on the other side. Older children can complete self-portraits based on the concept of symmetry. Provide kids with half of a photo of themselves, and encourage them to draw the other half by measuring how far different facial features are from the line of symmetry.
- Scholastic Teachers: Symmetry
- Math Is Fun: Definition of Symmetry
- Math & the Art of MC Escher: Introduction to Symmetry
- Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: Line Symmetry
- IXL: Fourth Grade Math -- Rotational Symmetry
- Education: Symmetry Art Project
- Scholastic Teachers: Math Meets Art -- Symmetry Self-Portraits
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