Learning about Symmetry

Learning about Symmetry

As part of the Geography fair a few weeks back, I wanted to incorporate some maths for Daniel. He can be a tad resistant to maths at times, so ‘sneaking’ it in is always a bonus.

He had been busy exploring his favourite flags, and at some stage, during this, he noticed that an awful lot of them were symmetrical. He didn’t really know how to name this concept so I thought it might be a good way to introduce this idea to him.

We had a look at some of his favourite flags and talked about those that had a clear pattern that was the same on both sides, and used a small handheld mirror across the middle of the flag. Doing this was a really quick was for him to see the symmetry or lack of symmetry in the various flag designs.

We then had a think about other things that might be symmetrical – I drew half a face and we talked about how our faces are, pretty much, symmetrical, as are our bodies (externally at least!).

My eldest can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and this can make him a bit reluctant to do things he fears he might get wrong. One of the flags that he really likes is the Canadian flag – the maple leaf makes it quite distinctive. He has spent time drawing out many of his favourite flags but steered away from Canada as he found the maple leaf a bit tricky to do.

I was pleased to find a sheet that had a maple leaf symmetry exercise to work through, and we set this up, working on it together. We first talked about how we might use the grid to work out where to draw the lines and curves of the leaf, and then set about doing it bit by bit. It took him a little while to work out the middle line and to count out on the grid from the middle line to calculate where each line should go, but we got there in the end. The concept of using the grid to mark and scale his drawing in was quite interesting to him and I think that, once he got going, he really enjoyed it. He finished his leaf and coloured it in, then, of course, checked using a mirror that it was symmetrical.

We then decided to have a look at what other things are symmetrical – we decided that our hands aren’t, but that their favourite teddy bears are. I also got them to think about where they’re checking symmetry from – for example, if a mirror is held horizontally across the nose then the face isn’t symmetrical, but vertically across the nose, it is.

After we had finished up with some more symmetry drawings he set about choosing flags that he thought were symmetrical. He did take a bit of playing around to work out why the Brazilian flag isn’t symmetrical!

I’m going to use this idea again on future projects with them and build on using grids to plot out drawings – it had the unintended effect of getting him to consider size and space in his drawing of the leaf and this will be useful as his artwork becomes more detailed.

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