First Grade Geometry:
Shapes In Your World

What Kids Need to Learn

When studying first grade geometry, kids will learn to identify basic 2D shapes (triangle, circle, rectangle, square) and solid shapes (cube, cylinder, cone, rectangular prism, sphere) by name. Rubic's Cube They will also use positional words (over, under, beside, etc.) to describe where things are.

Note: We all know what a square and a rectangle are, right? Here's a surprise: a square is actually a type of rectangle. A rectangle has four sides and 4 right angles (like a box or a square), but the length of the sides doesn't matter. A square is a type of rectangle that has all 4 equal sides.

Putting the Math in Context

In kindergarten, kids were introduced to 2D and 3D shapes, and learned to sort and classify them by size, color, and shape. In first grade geometry, they will be learning shapes in more depth and will compare them with each other. In second grade, they will learn more shapes and increase their vocabulary for talking about geometric figures.

Why It's Important

Geometry is the odd child in elementary math textbooks. It seems not to fit, somehow—all that talk of shapes and pictures, and so few numbers. But its difference is what makes first grade geometry so important.

Elementary geometry shows children that the world around them is made up of predictable shapes and gives kids tools to explore them. They learn a different type of logical thinking, one that is not dependent on symbols but on concrete figures that they can touch and manipulate. For visual thinkers, this is especially important, but all children will benefit from exercising new parts of their brain and improving their spatial sense.

Math Challenges Kids Might Face

Rectangular Prism Juice Box

Kids are expected to learn a lot of new vocabulary in a short amount of time. This is especially hard for language learners and for kids who have trouble memorizing new words.

The illustrations in books that represent 3D objects can also be hard for kids to understand. First graders really need to see and touch the solid figures themselves to understand what they are seeing in 3D drawings. Faces, edges, and corners make much more sense when kids can touch and count them.

Math Help That Could Make the Difference

First Grade Geometry Cone

You will need to be familiar with the concepts and vocabulary that kids are learning, and use them often. This may feel strange. We do not normally talk about cylinders, spheres, and certainly not rectangular prisms, but this is the time to start.

Find at least one physical example of each solid form to refer to when kids are learning geometric concepts. A ball is a sphere. A cereal box is a rectangular prism. Dice or square boxes are cubes. Candles, cans, or mugs are cylinders, and a funnel or party hat are cones. Have these available for kids to handle when answering questions about how many faces each one has, or comparing the corners on different shapes.

Geometry Marble Spheres

Ask questions about the shapes. Which ones could you stack on top of each other? Which ones have a curve? Which have only flat faces? What rolls? How many corners does each shape have?

Shapes are everywhere. Get in the habit of pointing out the shapes in your world, and very soon your child will be doing the same. A cone-shaped Christmas tree. Cylinder pipes. The cat's head is like a sphere. The TV, a rectangular prism.

Your child might find it helpful to have pictures to refer back to. These downloadable geometry images can make it easier for kids to recognize geometric figures. It takes a while to download, though, so be patient.

Whiz Kids

If your child is finding first grade geometry to be easy, feel free to add pyramids to their repertoire of shapes (most kids will get these next year). Many objects are made up of multiple shapes; a house may be a rectangular prism with a pyramid on top. Help kids find the basic figures in more complex shapes.

You might also be interested in Geometric Solids.

For fun geometry practice, we recommend Magformers Magnetic Building Set, Folding Geometric Shapes, and Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards.

Or, browse the Artful Math Marketplace--our own mini-store. Amazon gives us a small thank-you if you buy through this link, but we only feature the math supplies we use ourselves.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey