Building with Unifix Cubes
Many classrooms have linking cubes or unifix cubes. Our children have been drawn to using them to create small robots and airplanes. Because of their versatile nature, these cubes can be linked on all sides, and children can easily incorporate symmetrical design into their creations.
Working with Sticky Loose Parts
Loose parts offer endless opportunities for exploration of spatial reasoning and design. A recent trip to the Scrap Box in Ann Arbor, Michigan (a recycling centre for art materials) provided us with many foam pieces that had one sticky side. We drew various lines of symmetry on paper (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) and encouraged the children to place the foam pieces symmetrically on the paper. It was interesting to see their designs being built in 2D across the paper, and in 3D upwards off the paper.
Recycled Game Boards
Recycled wooden game boards are excellent grids to use when encouraging children to consider spatial reasoning and symmetry in their design. The grid design helps children 'picture and place' geometric shapes symmetrically. In this experience we've offered recycled carpet samples to entice children who enjoy tactile experiences into creating interesting mathematical designs.
'Follow the Leader' Game with Foam Pieces
Taking math outdoors is always fun! In this game, a line of symmetry is created with masking tape on the ground. Large foam shapes (easily cut from Dollar Store art foam) are used as game pieces. One child is the leader and the other the follower. The leader places a shape on his/her side and the follower has to create a symmetrical design by placing the same shape in reflection on the opposite side of the line. The result is an intricate symmetrical design.
...and is opened to reveal a symmetrical picture! When the primary colours of paint are used the creation of secondary colours is an added bonus!
Finding Lines of Symmetry
Helping children find symmetry in the world around them is an important discovery to instill the idea that math is everywhere. We offered books about symmetry for the children to explore, along with laminated photos of real objects from nature. The children were encouraged to look at the different pictures and then use dry erase markers and rulers to draw the lines of symmetry they saw.
Pentominoes are complex math manipulatives that fit together in interesting ways. In order to challenge children we added a line of symmetry to a tray and encouraged the children to see if they could create a symmetrical design with the pentominoes, while trying to fill the tray at the same time!
Pattern Blocks on Mirrors
Building on mirrors is an interesting way for children to explore symmetry. Whatever is constructed on the mirror will naturally reflect symmetrically with the mirror as the line of symmetry. Children are often amazed to see their creations reflected, which sometimes results in an interesting discussion of 'doubling' in addition to symmetry.
We like to use plastic plates and dry erase markers to make games more interactive and also encourage letter writing. After children observe the folded letter they can write their guess on the plate...
..and then look to see the letter revealed! The line of symmetry is evident as the fold line on the letter.