Using books to explore shape, space and measure

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By Nicki Allman

Use picture books to get the most out of shape, space and measure in your setting.

Shape, space and measure

Picture books are a great source of help in teaching mathematical concepts in Early Years settings. They provide a visual aid that can assist with various different areas of maths. They are a particularly useful device for teaching trickier concepts, such as arrays. After all who doesn’t like to share in a story?

Using picture books to engage with maths provides a fantastic link between Literacy, Communication and Language and Mathematics. Most importantly, they provide a much less stressful way of approaching Mathematics for those who struggle, enabling them to engage without becoming immediately discouraged. It also enables the development of talk and problem solving in a fun way. After all, the job of the practitioner is to enable a sense of enjoyment in learning as well as to promote confidence in different areas. We must get rid of the negative attitudes surrounding Mathematics and promote a sense of ‘having a go’ without fear of failure. If this process of positivity in Mathematics is promoted from the earliest years then it becomes easier to manage over the whole of a child’s school life. Early Years is crucial in setting the whole tone of positivity. For more information about using picture books, please see our Picture Book Maths article, which explains how picture books can be used to enhance Early Years development.

Teaching the concept of shape, space and measure

This broad area of Mathematics takes into account shape, size, angles, area, perimeter, volume, position and properties of things within space (the area which something takes up – for example a small ball takes up a small space but the big ball takes up a bigger space than the small ball).

Measure can be categorized as having a length, width or size. Units of measure include centimetres, millimetres, etc…

Shape falls into distinct areas:
  • Plane geometry looks at points, lines and shapes (including polygons). Points do not have dimensions but are simply a position. Lines are one dimensional and shapes are two dimensional.
  • Solid geometry is about three dimensional objects. These can be held in the hand and manipulated.
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