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PBS Teachers

Multimedia resources & professional development for America's preK-12 educators.


Community Geometry (Grade Levels: 3 - 7)

Building Materials | Community Geometry | Career Connections | More Math Concepts


The great thing about geometry is that it is all around us! And the architecture of buildings and objects provides a perfect setting for students to look at and find shapes and geometric properties. It is wonderful to help students to see the mathematics in the shapes and designs of the world around them.

You might use some or all of these activities:

Create a geometry slide show:
Take slides of architectural structures and objects that represent different figures and types of geometry and mathematics. This can include slides from other places but should also include slides of buildings or objects that the students will easily recognize as being in their school and community. You can use these slides at the beginning of the geometry unit when you are learning about or reviewing names of different object and their properties. Slides work well for this activity because they allow everyone to see the same picture at the same time and to talk about the geometry in that picture.

Students take geometry pictures:
Once your students are thinking about geometry in the world around them, then you can send them in search of other places where they see geometry in their world. One option is for them to tell you where to go to take a picture. Another option is to purchase a couple of disposable cameras and allot each student 2 or 3 pictures. If your school has a digital camera, you might be able to use it for this purpose, too. Once the pictures are developed, have students work with one (or more) of their own pictures and write a paragraph about all of the geometry in the picture. Mount students' pictures and paragraphs to make a wonderful bulletin board that everyone can enjoy.

The nice part of this activity is that it is fun and works for students of all ages!

Here are some ideas to get you started looking for geometry in your community.

Windows: Look for shapes, such as squares, rectangles, parallelograms (especially on cars), semi-circles, hexagons, octagons, and more. Also look for different types of angles, symmetry, rotations, congruence, etc.

Brick patios and walls: Bricks come in lots of different shapes, and they tessellate (completely fill the plane).

Roofs: Are there any roofs in your community that are cones? You can probably find roofs made up of triangles, rectangles, and trapezoids.

Fountains: Is the fountain part of a sphere or rectangular solid? Arching water forms the shape of a parabola. Fountains often have some symmetry to them, too.

Look around! Where do you see triangles, hexagons, pentagons, octagons and other polygons? Where do you see three-dimensional solids such as triangular prisms, rectangular prisms, and other types of prisms? Where you see triangular pyramids, rectangular pyramids, and other types of pyramids? (Pyramids come to a point, and their sides are triangles. Prisms have the same shape on the top and bottom, and their sides are quadrilaterals.) Are there any cylinders in your town? Are there any cone shapes in the architecture in your town?

Also, watch for different shapes put together to form an object. What shapes make up a water tower? A street light?

You and your students won't see your world in the same way after this project!