3. Using a game to practice mathematical words

One way to assess how well your pupils have learned to understand and use language to describe shapes is to use ‘feely bags’ (see Resource 1 for more detail). One pupil must carefully describe an object hidden inside a bag. The pupil should use the special words they have learned, and other pupils must try and guess which object is being described.

In this way, pupils have to visualise the shape in the bag, and correctly use the simple geometric terms they have learned, if they are to ‘win’ in the feely bag game. How you organise this, so that all pupils are engaged in the activity, is important because if done well, the learning of more pupils will be enhanced.

Case Study 3: Playing a feely bag game to practise mathematical terms

Mrs Johnson made some cloth bags big enough for a pupil’s hand to fit into, and with a drawstring around the top to close the bag up.

She put one of the objects from her collection into each bag, having carefully chosen the objects to give variation.

Mrs Johnson explained the game to her class and chose the pupil who would feel and describe the shape of the object in the first bag. This pupil had to describe the object using their newly learned words. The other pupils had to put their hands up when they thought they knew what the object was. Being able to feel and describe the object in the next feely bag was the reward for the pupil who guessed correctly.

When doing the activity, Mrs Johnson made sure all the pupils were paying attention, only allowing one to speak at a time so that pupils could think about what each person was saying.

Key Activity: Using a feely bag to think about shapes

First prepare your feely bag or box. You need a bag or box in which you put an object and the pupil can put a hand in to feel the object but not see it (see Resource 1).

You could have one feely bag for the class or, if your class is big, have more than one so that several groups can work at once. This will help more pupils participate.

Then proceed with the game.

  • One pupil should feel one object in the bag/box and, without taking it out, describe it very carefully to the others. The pupil must not name the object.
  • They should say things like, ‘it has all flat surfaces, it has so many corners, it has so many flat surfaces,’ etc.
  • This carries on until one pupil thinks they can name the object.
  • If it is the correct answer, the object is pulled out of the bag and the successful pupil is the next to do the feeling (but allowing only one chance per pupil).

Encourage your pupils to use the vocabulary they have learned in the previous activities to describe their objects. Ask them to add them to their mathematical dictionaries.

2. Introducing mathematical language

Resource 1: Using feely bags