How I Introduced the Geoboard in My Classroom

By Marilyn Burns
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

For more from Marilyn Burns, please choose one of the following:



I remember the first time I introduced a manipulative to my class. At a workshop,I had learned how students could use geoboards to explore the areas of shapes, astandard textbook topic. I was excited and ready, but nervous.

I gave a geoboard to each student, distributed a cup of rubber bands to eachpair, and gave time for exploration. Within a minute, chaos reigned. The cupswere empty; every geoboard was full. Some students slouched in their chairswaiting for instructions. A few strummed the rubber bands as if the geoboard werea guitar. Several students, attempting to remove rubber bands from the geoboards,instead sent them flying. Others disappeared under their desks to retrieve lostrubber bands. This wasn't what I had envisioned.

Since then, I've changed how I set the stage for learning with materials. Hereare some ways I've learned to introduce geoboards.

For Intermediate and Upper Grades

Step 1:

I drew a model on the chalkboard of a geoboard's 5-by-5array and distributed one board to each student (no rubber bands yet). I asked,"How many pegs are there?" When I did this recently with fifth graders, I gavestudents time to think and then called on Sarah. "Twenty-five," she answered.
I responded, "You're right. How did you figure that out?"
She replied, "I counted five in a row and there are five rows, so I did 5, 10,15, 20, 25."
"Did anyone figure it out a different way?" I asked.
Kyle answered, "I did 5 times 5."
I continued until all students had a chance to report their methods.

Step 2:

I made a shape on my geoboard using one rubber band anddrew it on the chalkboard geoboard. (This helped introduce students to thegeoboard dot paper.) "Does anyone know this shape's name?" I asked. Several handsshot up, and Mike said, "Quadrilateral."
I then said, "Listen to my question and raise your hand when you figure out theanswer: How many pegs does my rubber band touch? Count not only the corner pegs,but any peg that touches the rubber band." I waited until practically everyone'shand was raised.
"Let's answer together," I said.
"Five," students responded.
"And how many pegs are inside my shape, not touching any side?" Again they saidthe answer in unison. I repeated this for several shapes.

Step 3:

I gave students directions to come up with nine shapeswith rubber bands touching different numbers of pegs and with different numbersof pegs inside. I also gave pairs of students geoboards, rubber bands, andgeoboard dot paper. I said, "First make any shapes on the geoboard. Thenconstruct shapes to match my descriptions. On the dot paper, record one shapethat matches each description."
The atmosphere was much different than my first experience. Some children stillstrummed the rubber bands, but the overall feeling was one of productivity.

Step 4:

The next day, I asked pairs to create as many shapes asthey could that touch four pegs with two pegs inside. Students recorded theirshapes on the geoboard dot paper. Later, they exchanged papers and checked eachother's shapes. Finally, I asked students to write the names of the shapes.

For Younger Children:

Step 1:

I give children time to explore with the geoboard. (Theyenjoy this, and some need the practice putting the rubber bands around pegs.) Then I say, "Remove the rubber bands on your geoboard and start again, thistime making a shape of something that can fly."

Step 2:

When everyone has made at least one shape that flies, I show them how totransfer their shape to geoboard dot paper. I use dot paper with only twogeoboards to a page so their drawings are large enough for display.

Step 3:

Finally, I have students post their recorded shapes--kites, rockets,butterflies--on a huge graph with a different column for each object. We discusshow many of each shape we have, how many more of one shape we have than another,and how shapes are alike and different.


Scholastic Teacher Magazine

Six issues per year filled with practical, fun, teacher-tested ideas for your classroom. Keep up with classroom trends, get expert teaching tips, and find dozens of resources in every issue.