Exploring shape and its mathematical language through sorting activities

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Using mathematical language to discuss shapes of objects either printed or hidden in 'feely bags'. Can you feel the forks?

About. Activities based on an original document from TESSA to encourage pupils to use mathematical language to think about shapes. There are sample materials and case studies of its use.

Pedagogical content. The Investigation(ta) of shapes and geometry can be very rewarding. A practical approach using objects from the pupils’ environment can increase their motivation and interest. In this unit, you will be using everyday objects to help pupils develop geometrical skills, such as recognising, visualisation(ta), describing, sorting, naming, classifying and comparing.

Through games(tool) on the properties of shapes, the activity engages pupils in group talk(ta), mathematical thinking(ta) and vocabulary(ta). This open ended(ta) task encourages higher order(ta) thinking, and could form the basis of whole class(ta) discussion(ta)/questioning(ta) and inquiry(ta) projects. It can be used as a lesson extension, or as a preliminary task. (edit)

Resource details
Title Exploring shape and its mathematical language through sorting activities
Topic Language
Teaching approach
Learning Objectives
  • Using open-ended sorting activities to explore knowledge of shapes.
  • Exploring practical ways to introduce pupils to the language or ‘register’ of mathematical terms.
  • Using practical activities to develop pupils’ understanding as well as mathematical descriptions of geometric shapes.
Format / structure

A set of Word documents.

Age of students / grade

Useful information

The resource is intended as an example of how open-ended tasks can be used to encourage mathematical thinking, and exploration in the context of a teacher education session. It is also useful as a mathematics resource in its own right.

Files and resources to view and download

The resource is described in full here, and is available to download as a Word document File:SortingExploringShape.doc.

TESSA logo

Preview sample of an activity using bags containing familiar shapes