Symmetry "is an integral component connecting mathematics to the real world," according to the Symmetry Inquiry website. Although symmetry is just a small part of geometry, it provides youngsters with an early example of how mathematical knowledge relates to their everyday lives. Symmetry and other geometrical patterns exist in nature, art, music and architecture -- in fact, just about anywhere you choose to look. Recognising symmetry is an important first step in children's understanding of concept.
Easy Symmetry Game
Use building blocks and a narrow dowel stick for a simple preschool activity that gives kids a first glimpse into the concept of symmetry. Lay one dowel stick down between two children, and give each child a selection of coloured bricks. One child starts the game by putting a coloured brick against her side of the stick. The other child mirrors the first child's action by placing an identically coloured block in the corresponding position on her side. The first child continues to build a five- or six-block pattern of her choice, with her pattern mirrored by the second child. Help correct any mistakes in the mirror image and explain to the children that they have made a symmetrical pattern. Get them to swap roles and start again.
Finding the Line of Symmetry
Make and distribute cut-outs of symmetrical shapes and objects such as hearts, stars, flowers and triangles to the children. Have the children find the objects' lines of symmetry by folding the paper shapes in half. Demonstrate how both sides of the shapes match when they are folded along their lines of symmetry. A mirror with safety glass is a useful tool to help students find the line before they make a fold. Show them on your demonstration shape how, when the mirror is placed along the line of symmetry, the full image can be seen.
Symmetry through Art
Give each child a piece of white construction paper with a neat fold down the centre and small amounts of three differently coloured poster paints. Show students how to place three small paint blobs on one side of the paper in a vertical row parallel to the fold. The paint blobs should be fairly close to each other so they will overlap slightly when flattened. The resulting image will look best if the kids make the top blob smallest, the middle blob biggest and the bottom blob medium-sized, although this is not essential. Show them how to fold the clean side of the paper over onto the painted side and rub the back of it. When they open the paper again they will have created a symmetrical butterfly pattern.
Symmetry Around Us
Take the children on a field trip around the local area to provide opportunities for them to recognise symmetry in the environment. Get each child to sketch five examples of symmetry that they see on their journey, with the line of symmetry included in their drawings. Ask them to include examples from nature, such as bugs and flowers, as well as examples from the man-made structures they see.
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