5th and 6th Grade Geometry

5th and 6th Grade Geometry

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I’ll be honest. When I first checked out the 5th grade standards years ago (I taught 4th and 6th – 8th) I was a bit confused. It seemed as though Geometry was split into two strands – Geometry and Measurement and Data. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why coordinate planes were in with Geometry. I mean, hello? Coordinate planes are all about displaying functional relationships – right? 

But then I realized – with as wonky as CCSS might be for some people, there actually is a method to the madness. Coordinate planes are introduced in 5th grade Geometry and then immediately used again in 6th Grade Geometry (graphing polygons on a coordinate plane) and 8th grade geometry (distance between two points).

5th grade is going to be the first time many students are exposed to Geometry being the study of more than just shapes, angles and lines. 6th grade picks up steam by adding in three dimensional figures, which in my opinion, is SO much fun and allows for so much hands on exploration and learning.

Speaking of hands on.

My #1 tip (shockingly) is to provide hands on experiences with geometry. Many things taught in upper level math don’t really lend themselves to much hands on learning, outside of algebra tiles. 5th and 6th grade geometry still allows students to explore so much with their hands.

  • Let students explore regular polygons by creating them with toothpicks and marshmallows. Why toothpicks? They’re completely straight and allow students to make perfect(ish) triangles, squares, pentagons, etc. They can see that adding a side means adding an angle. And – they can eat their work when they’re done!
  • Bring in all the boxes. Empty boxes from cereal, macaroni and cheese, granola bars, etc. The more boxes you can bring in, the better for 3D exploration. Students can see the boxes – understand the difference between what goes inside (volume) and what covers the outside (surface area). Teach them how to gently take the boxes apart to get the idea of what a net is and how – one single piece of folded (although misshapen) cardboard can make a box.
  • For cubic volume (5th), get some centimeter cubes to allow students to build rectangular prisms with the cubes to see how they come together to form one solid, three dimensional figure. 
  • If your school has money to spend, these 3D manipulatives from amazon are amazing. Not only are the shapes fillable, but they also come with the matching nets. So students can see how they come apart and go together to be filled. 
  • If you have technology in your classroom (or your students are learning virtually), there are so many coordinate plane discovery activities on GeoGebra that your students can check out. Since 5th grade is going to be the first time they’re truly interacting with a coordinate plane, I highly recommend letting them play around with something like this before going into the details about axis names and such. Let them explore and learn to possibly even like the coordinate plane before getting all math-y on them.
    • And of course – let them play battleship to practice their newfound coordinate plane plotting skills. 

Feel free to share your tips in the comments and enter your info below to get the digital version of my Coordinate Plane Stations for FREE!


My name is Lindsay

My goal is to help math teachers bring their students out of the math textbook and into a hands on, interactive and fun learning environment.

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