In this installment of our series on why learning matters, we explore the importance of geometry. From assisting with creative career paths to laying a foundation for viewing the world, geometry is used in ways many of us don’t even realize. Here’s why geometry is so important both for life skills and future careers.
Why Geometry Matters
It’s easy for students to write off geometry as just another useless math lesson. But when you explain its importance, they begin to see how it’s related to everything in their world.
At a basic level, geometry is important to learn because it creates a foundation for more advanced mathematical learning. Algebra and geometry often overlap, points out Thinkster Math founder Raj Valli. It introduces important formulas, such as the Pythagorean theorem, used across science and math classes. It is also foundational knowledge for certain careers in STEM fields.
Students interested in art may also find a love of geometry, says former university math lecturer and creator of Geometiles Yana Mohanty, Ph.D.
“Geometry is intimately connected with the visual arts—in fact, many leading artists of the Renaissance, such as da Vinci, Durer, and others took a keen interest in mathematics. Therefore, starting with geometry may spark an interest in math in students that would not consider themselves mathematically inclined,” she writes.
She adds that students who understand geometry and spatial ability will push the boundaries of technical and scientific professions.
Geometry and Spatial Thinking
Geometry is essential for helping children understand spatial relationships. This is detailed in the report “Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity,” co-edited by Taniesha A. Woods, Ph.D..
Spatial relationships are important even for young children, because it helps them understand their place in the world. It teaches them to determine how large a room is, how far away a desk is or which way to move. Geometry allows students to connect mapping objects in the classroom to real-world contexts regarding direction and place.
Understanding of spatial relationships is also considered important in the role of problem solving and higher-order thinking skills. Kindergarten specialist Edward Schroeter emphasizes the importance of stocking a classroom with objects and ideas that can reinforce spatial learning. “Since young children learn best by working with concrete objects and through stories, educators should stock their classrooms with picture books that model building and design, spatial vocabulary, spatial gestures, and spatial and geometric concepts,” he writes.
Puzzles, blocks, shape sorters and building toys are fun and engaging elements that inspire young students to learn more about shapes. Paper folding tasks, like origami and airplane making, help students with the tactile aspect of learning geometry.
For older students questioning the importance of geometry, ask them to consider the example of moving into a new house. Deidra Alexander at Bright Hub Education spells out the many ways in which this ordinary life situation requires knowledge, planning and applications of geometry.
“What are the specs of your living room space? Do you know whether an oversized sofa, a lamp, three large tables, and a dinette set will all fit in there? Did you remember to take the measurements of the door leading into the living area?”, she writes as examples in a lesson plan for middle school math.
These questions could be used as a group exercise to get students thinking about the critical daily applications of geometry. It helps them understand that their family likely uses geometry in daily life. This makes geometry lessons more meaningful and easier to remember.
Geometry and Literacy
Geometry isn’t usually linked to literacy, but it is in fact a fundamental component in learning how to read. This is one reason why its so important for preschoolers to learn about shapes, says preschool teacher Becky Chapron. “A preschooler who is able to distinguish between shapes is better equipped to notice the differences in shapes of letters.This helps not only with reading but also with writing,” she explains.
She suggests that early childhood teachers expose children to shapes to help them solidify their understanding of two-dimensional structures. At the same time, the students learn the properties of what a shape looks like and how many sides it has.
Researcher and author Ya’ara Bashan Haham, who specializes in playground design, shows how geometry can also be taught outside during play. Haham points out that there are geometric shapes all around the playground: railings, wheels, domes, triangles, squares and rhombus-shaped features are everywhere. Students know these as geometric shapes using playground terms such as tower, monkey bars or swing.
More hands-on activity ideas for geometry come from the blog, Little Bins for Little Hands. These geometric lessons involve everyday classroom items, like popsicle sticks and foam sheets. One activity involves having students count the number of sides each shape has.
Showing students how to recognize and name geometric shapes, which are sometimes hidden or must be imagined in the world around us, can help them see geometry in their everyday lives. This reinforces what’s learned in class, creating a real-world connection that makes geometry fundamentals more memorable.
Unexpected Career Applications of Geometry
Students who aren’t strong in math — especially those who prefer more creative subjects — may be particularly disinterested in geometry. However, relating geometric principles to their strengths can make mathematics more engaging. Meena Mehta at learning app Toppr explains how mathematics and art are actually related in many ways.
“The theory of perspective (a graphical representation of on a flat surface of an image as seen by eyes) showed that there is more to geometry than just the metric properties of figures: and this perspective is the basis of the origin of projective geometry,” she writes.
Mehta also points out that geometry is an essential component of computer aided design software, which is used in a variety of creative professions, including architecture.
Laurie Brenner at Sciencing agrees that geometry is essential in the use of CAD software, which most architecture, engineering and contracting jobs require. “Before a contractor builds a structure, someone must design the building’s shape and create blueprints. A computer outfitted with computer-aided design software contains the math to render the visual images on the screen,” she explains.
While young students may not understand the concept of CAD, they can understand the relationship between a physical structure and concepts of geometry.
Astronomy is another field which relies on geometry. Since young students tend to be especially interested in space, explaining the importance of geometry in a career involving outer space can help students value the subject more. “According to the EscherMath website, geometry allows astronomers to plan observations and reconstruct bodies in outer space such as asteroids,” writes Stormy Hickman at Career Trend.