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Mathematics: Geometry


Shapes and the arrangement of relative parts within a whole are the subject of geometry. Consider the construction of spider webs or the arrangement of petals forming a rose. Study the facade of a cathedral, the angles and the fitting together of the architectural elements or all the parts in myriad shapes that combine to make an automobile. Both the natural and the human-made environments are studies in shapes, angles, and intersections.

Best Shape Sorter Toys

Through observation and experience children learn about shapes and parts. First come basic shapes: round, square, triangular. Among early childhood play experiences are sorting and matching of shapes using a shape sorter. Simple ones are best for beginners, and Ambi Lock A Block is best of class. High contrast between the bright white top and the color matched raised rims outlining each opening facilitates “hitting the target” while its three dimensional shapes drop easily into place.

As shape discrimination, eye-hand coordination, and fine motor skills improve, children are ready for the challenge of fitting two-dimensional shapes into corresponding holes. Sound Puzzle Box is a popular choice that rewards proper placement with distinct auditory responses.

Basic Shapes Puzzles 

Puzzles are all about shape. Again starting simple is key. With only four shapes, First Shapes Puzzle is ideal for children learning to match colors and shapes. Chunky shapes facilitate placement and the shapes fit only in their proper places, making this a truly self-correcting learning experience. The left to right orientation models the direction of reading and writing. Once recognizing basic shapes is mastered, children are ready to identify and match more unusual shapes.

Interlocking Pieces Puzzles

After learning individual shapes through puzzles, children move on to explore the arrangement of shapes as parts of a whole. Start simple. The more pieces and the smaller the pieces, the more challenging a puzzle is. Wooden puzzles with thick pieces are easier for small hands to manipulate than thin cardboard ones.

A single layer, 8-piece wooden puzzle, Rainbow Fish invites exploration of color and shapes and the way parts fit together to make a whole. With only one way to complete the puzzle, the child has to sort out and make sense of the pieces, then work out how the parts go together to create the whole, a sometimes frustrating experience that benefits from adult encouragement.

Layered Puzzles 

Layered puzzles introduce perspective and offer graduated challenges. As always, start simple and progress gradually. The three layer, 7-piece, Cats invites exploration of color and shapes. More layers offer more challenge; however, the number of pieces is a more accurate indicator of difficulty.

Arctic Animals, a two-layer meticulously cut wooden puzzle with 34 pieces that fit together smoothly, invites exploration of color and shapes and ignites curiosity about the animals of the arctic. Subtle layering and precise placement of the 34-pieces creates a more complex perspective and more intricate scene than the open space layers of Cats .

Mathematical Concepts Puzzles 

Although most puzzles go together in one and only one way, others offer options, and these literally open doors to understanding of mathematics.

Binomial Squares Puzzle introduces mathematical concepts through observation and experience. Children develop proportional reasoning, area concepts, and place value understanding when they discover four small squares cover the same area as the rectangle and four rectangles the same as one large square. And that’s only the beginning of the possibilities.

Power of Two Puzzle encourages experiential learning of important mathematical ideas from fraction equivalents, fraction multiplication with a common factor of 1:2, proportional reasoning, and area. The 10 puzzle is cut into one-half, one-fourth, one-eighth, one-sixteenth up to 1/128th. Clearly challenging, the beauty of Power of Two lies in the multiple ways the pieces can fit together and the arrangement of relative fractions.

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