Clothes Geometry: Working with Shapes

Clothes Geometry: Working with Shapes

In this children’s math activity, young people are encouraged to learn more about geometric shapes and how these shapes correlate directly to their everyday lives.  By selecting various basic shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles and cutting out poster board patterns of these geometric forms, one is able to present objects to the children that can be utilized as the foundational cards for making paper outlines of clothing which can be cut out and taped together as functional child sized paper outfits.  The children are encouraged to take the large card shapes and to trace around them on large sheets of paper, creating pieces of paper cloth which can be assembled to create shorts, skirts, shirts, and dresses.  By the end of this geometric math activity, the children have both a greater familiarity with geometric shapes as well as an increased understanding about how these shapes operate in the real world.

The first step in initiating a project such as this is to acquire several large sheets of poster board, adult scissors, several child scissors, a ruler or tape measure, relatively thin large sheets of paper to be used as the clothing, tape, and pencils.  Making the poster board shapes can be done by the teacher before the math activity.  One must use the ruler or tape measure to draw out geometric shapes, triangles which can be used as the front and back of skirts, rectangles which can be used as the front and back of shirts, circles which can be used to cut out the necks of the rectangle shirts, and squares which can be used as pants or shorts legs and as the front and back of the waist section of a skirt, shorts, or pants, and then these shapes can be cut out and utilized as the foundational patterns for the children to trace onto their paper clothes.  Some examples of the pattern layouts are below, and please note the circles used to cut out the shirt necks must be aligned and cut out by the children as half circles.

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Children love clothes geometry, because at the end of the day, they have beautiful, although temporary, outfits to wear home and show their friends and families.  They get to choose the paper colors, and they construct the clothes themselves using the shape patterns, child scissors, and tape.  Along with math skills, the children engage in fashion design, construction, and refining their motor skills, participating in the actual work which is required to assemble clothing.  In this hands-on approach to geometry, the children are engaged in real life skills that help them to understand the pieces of the puzzles in their worlds, the parts of the whole structure, which often come in these very shapes.  They begin looking at forms and structures differently, eyeing the specialized contours of the squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles which surround them in their daily environments.

The children to whom I presented this activity were thrilled by the idea of making their own clothing.  They laid out their favorite colored paper on the ground and used the large poster board shapes to trace their favorite clothes patterns with pencils.  Several girls chose the shirt outfit pattern, and boys mainly liked the shorts.  By helping them to figure out which shapes they had already acquired in their piles and looking to the small pattern layouts I had printed out, they were able to figure out which shapes were still needed.  Busying themselves with tracing, cutting, and taping, the outfits slowly emerged from the paper.  Red circles, blue squares, and yellow triangles emerged across the room and began sticking to the children.  A boy named Luke was the first to have his outfit finished, and a girl named Mary made the best aligned and sturdy outfit.  At the end of the activity, they were very proud and pranced around in their new attire, eager to show their family members and friends.


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