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Shape, space and measures : Early Years : Mathematics Content Knowledge

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Early Years
Shape, space and measures
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1. How confident are you that you understand and can support young children’s developing understanding of the mathematical properties of shape through their play, including:

a. three-dimensional (3D) shapes?


The first shapes that children encounter are three dimensional. Play settings should include opportunities to handle and manipulate these shapes to become familiar with their attributes. Block play, modelling using reclaimed materials, building dens and sand and dough play all help children to appreciate the three dimensions, as well as differences between hollow and solid shapes and inside and outside.

What this might look like in the classroom

Some of the three dimensional shapes encountered through play will be irregular ones. Where appropriate, use the correct vocabulary. Listen in when children are building with blocks and support with naming and properties. Ask questions about which shapes are good for building, which ones roll, which ones make a good roof. Extend children’s explanations by asking them how they know and make suggestions by asking ‘Have you tried…’

Fill 3D shapes with water and freeze. Put the frozen shapes in the water tray. Talk to the children about the shapes and the fact that they float. Do not allow children to handle the shapes when they first come out of the freezer to stop them hurting their hands.

Taking this mathematics further

Use collected boxes and containers for reclaimed modelling. Using these materials allow the children to be more creative than they can be with most commercial construction kits and enables them to explore how 3D shapes fit together. Link to any current topic, for example vehicles, homes etc. A model town would provide lots of opportunity to talk about 3D shapes.

A sphere
A sphere

A cube
A cube

Making connections

Children are expected to be able to name 3D shapes such as cube, pyramid, sphere and cone in Reception.

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