Ideas at Work: Exploring geometry with The Secret Birthday Message

What Works…

for Geometry

Big Ideas

  • Mathematics can be used to specify precise directions, routes, and locations in the world.
  • We use relative terms to describe locations and directions from different perspectives

Idea that Works

Sharon Hogan and her preschool class at Peterson School had all kinds of fun with the way Eric Carle’s The Secret Birthday Message plays with the two main faces of geometry—shapes and spatial sense. The group made up their own treasure map to correspond with the one in the story and then brought the map to life as they set up an obstacle course. Throughout the process, the children were surrounded by two- and three-dimensional shapes and involved in recognizing, naming, drawing, and building with them.

They also got lots of practice using directional language such as “down the stairs” or “through the opening” and relative words like “near to.” Sharon knew that both first- and second-language learners need many repetitions of these terms. These words can describe a relationship between two objects that shift. For example, one person pointing left looks like they are pointing right to someone facing them, or just as a bush that might have been in front of you at one point soon is behind you as you continue along a path.

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