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Spatial awareness…being able to describe the position of something/someone in relation to another using words and/or gestures, and being able to represent spaces and locations using models and/or drawings, may, at first glance, appear to have more in common with communication and geography, than with maths. However, the concepts of spatial awareness lay the foundations for all geometric thinking, be it at upper primary, secondary or an even higher level.
Essentially the children need to develop an understanding that:
- The spatial relationships between objects and places can be described and represented.
- These relationships may be viewed, described and represented differently depending on the perspective of the viewer (in particular, consider left and right).
- Developing the ability to mentally visualise the representations will enhance a person’s ability to picture how a shape will look when rotated when turned, flipped etc.
A synopsis of the curriculum objectives for infants to second class, state that the children should be enabled to:
- explore, discuss, develop and use the vocabulary of spatial relations (describing both position and direction/movement)
- explore closed shapes and open shapes and make body shapes
- give and follow simple directions (first and second class), including turning directions using half and quarter turns (second class only)
- explore and solve practical problems (first and second class)
In the case of the practical problems, this could include completing a jigsaw or a tangram puzzle, using mazes, grids, board games and or exploring basic coding eg via coding programs and apps, such as Lightbot, and more hand-on devices such as BeeBots.
Moving through space
Since spatial awareness requires an understanding of using space and moving through space, the majority of the activities should be active ones, where the children are moving around. This is where the suggested activities in the Operation Maths Teachers Resource Book (TRB) become extremely useful, such as the examples below.
Much of the language development in this strand unit can be reinforced via activities in PE (Orienteering) and Geography (mapping).
While activities incorporating physical movement are preferable, the Operation Maths digital resources on edcolearning, provide a worthwhile alternative and add variety. The Ready to Go activities below, as the phrase says are “exactly what they say on the tin”; the teacher need only click on the relevant icon in the digital version of the pupil’s book to open the activity, and the accompanying suggested questions are quickly viewable along the side menu. A full description of the activity, including the questions, is also given in the TRB.
- Shape and Space Manual from PDST
- Why above/below is easier to learn than left/right: a blog post, that illustrates the importance of perspective quite well.