After reading Deborah Schifter's article, Learning Geometry: some insights
drawn from teacher writing, I started to think more about the difficulty
many students encounter moving from "gestalt" shape identification to
property shape identification. Many students seem to have difficulty
identifying the same shape if its orientation changes. At first, I thought
that this difficulty relates to the way students have been taught about
shapes through object identification. But now, I think there might be
another big reason why they have difficulty overcoming this transition.
In the primary grades much emphasis is placed on learning the alphabet and
learning to read and write. It is during this time that a great deal of
focus is put on letter shape and orientation. In the beginning, many
children cannot distinguish between a "p", "b", "d", or "q" because
orientation has not mattered in their development. But as they begin early
phonics and reading they are told (and it is stressed repeatedly) that
letter orientation is very important and determines the meaning of that
letter. Thus, an upside-down "w" is no longer a "w", it is now an "m", and
an upside down "n" is no longer an "n", it is now a "u". So, it is no
wonder that just as they complete their understanding of letters and
orientation (first/second grade), that they are confused when they are told
that orientation does not matter when it comes to shape identification.
They now have to apply "new" rules to understanding shapes and symbols.
When I think about shape orientation in this context, I am no longer
surprised that it can take several years (or longer) for students to develop
Given the thoughts I've had on this topic, I was wondering if anyone else
had stumbled upon these similar ideas in research or discussions. I would
love to hear more!
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Received on Mon Jul 7 10:08:48 2008