Square, triangle, rectangle . . . most kids learn these pretty early. What about other shapes? Pentagon, hexagon, octagon, nonagon . . .
Teaching about shapes can be fun. Before we jump into some math games to teach kids about shape, let’s talk a little about the language you need to teach them.
A polygon is any 2D shape that has 3 or more enclosed straight sides and angles.
Shapes that include arcs, that are not fully enclosed or that include crossed segments are labeled non-polygons.
In regular polygons all sides and angles are equal.
In irregular polygons, some sides and angles are different.
You can explore these terms by following these steps:
- Draw a regular pentagon and an irregular pentagon on the board.
- Get your students to count the sides and corners.
- Ask if the sides are the same length on both shapes. How can they check?
- Emphasize that shapes with 5 sides are pentagons, but if the sides and corners are not equal it is an irregular pentagon.
- Discuss the difference between regular and irregular polygons.
- Invite students to share other shapes they know and discuss if they are polygons, if they are regular/irregular, how many sides and corners they have and the name of the shapes.
Introduce the names of various polygons.
- Triangle = 3 sides
- Square = 4 sides
- Pentagon = 5 sides
- Hexagon = 6 sides
- Heptagon = 7 sides
- Octagon = 8 sides
- Nonagon = 9 sides
- Decagon = 10 sides
3 math games to teach shapes
Students can create shapes, identify various polygons, and match up names and pictures in these games.
Make a polygon
Each student needs a whiteboard and 8 toothpicks.
- Give each student 8 toothpicks and ask them to make as many different polygon shapes as they can using the toothpicks.
- Note that each toothpick can be a side or they can put toothpicks end to end to make a longer line.
- Get them to draw each of the shapes they make and list the names of the shapes and their features: number of sides, lengths of sides, number of angles and angle sizes. Have them classify each polygon as regular or irregular.
How many polygons can you find?
Students can play this as a challenge by themselves or they can take turns with a partner to see who can find more polygons.
Give each student or pair a copy of an image containing multiple polygons, similar to the one below.
Students take turns identifying polygons they see, drawing the outline and naming the shape. Note that some polygons will contain others inside them.
Set a timer and see how many polygons students can find in that time.
Polygon matching game
In this version of a memory match up game, students match images and names of shapes.
To play, first download my 2D Shape Dominoes. You can use them for dominoes or follow the instructions below to create the matching game.
- Copy the domino cards onto thick cardstock so that you cannot see through to the other side when turned upside down.
- Cut each domino in two at the midline to create two memory tiles.
- MIx up the tiles and place them face down on the table.
- Players take turns flipping two tiles.
- If the two tiles are a match (either the same picture or word or a picture that matches a word), the student takes both tiles.
- The winner is the one with the most tiles at the end.
You can get your 2-D Shape Dominos to use for the memory game here.
If you’re looking for more ways to engage kids with shapes and other math concepts, check out The Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities. It’s loaded with 138 pages of worksheets, games, and activities to use in your class.