Preliminary Field Explorations in K-6 Math-Ed: The Giant Triangles as Classroom Manipulatives

Eva Knoll and Simon Morgan
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2002)
Pages 205–212


The present paper reports on children's investigations using the giant equilateral triangles from the Geraldine Project. It took place at the De Zavala Elementary School as the initial stage of a project in mathematics education. The triangles are a part of a modular construction kit made using kite technology. Their size, sturdiness and light weight make them ideal for in-class activities with children of all ages and stages of development. The school is located in a low socio-economic hispanic neighbourhood consisting of blue-collar families living in apartments and rental houses as well as small businesses and industries. Most of the students at the school are recent immigrants from Mexico or Central America or first generation born to immigrant families. Their parents have little or no education and are forced to work on jobs that entail long hours, frequently into the evening or night. This situation makes it difficult for parents to provide their children with appropriate support as students. At this stage, the structure of the activities that make up lessons emerged from the response of the children as the activities were tried. This approach, despite its unplanned nature, allowed for the introduction of much mathematical content, and the attention of the children was relatively easy to catch and hold. The activities successfully combined the play aspect of the giant triangles with the mathematical concept explorations that the instructors overlaid. In some cases the children were allowed to build their own shapes, which were then examined with them. The outcome of these trial activities was then used as a basis for lesson planning in later stages of the pilot project.