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Geometry & shapes

Understanding geometry is essential to understanding and describing the world around us. The skills your child learns at primary school will therefore go on to help them solve problems in everyday life.

At the end of primary school, children sit mandatory tests in arithmetic and reasoning. Although these may seem a bit daunting, children build their maths skills gradually through the primary years. So your child will progress from recognising rectangles, circles, and triangles in Year 1 to finding unknown angles in regular polygons and reflecting shapes on coordinate grids in Year 6.

There are lots of simple things you can do at home to help your child with geometry.

Follow the links below for an overview of each year, with lots of information, support, and practice activities:

Geometry in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, children will be expected to be able to identify simple flat (2D) and solid (3D) shapes and use mathematical vocabulary to describe position, direction, and movement. This includes:

• recognising and naming common 2D shapes, such as circles, triangles, rectangles, and squares
• recognising and naming common 3D shapes, such as spheres, pyramids, cones, cuboids, and cubes
• describing whole, half, quarter, and three-quarter turns.

Geometry in Year 2 (age 6–7)

In Year 2, children will be expected to be able to compare and sort common 2D and 3D shapes and everyday objects and continue patterns of shapes. This includes:

• describing 2D shapes (including number of sides and lines of symmetry)
• describing 3D shapes (including number of faces, edges, and vertices)
• describing turns using clockwise, anti-clockwise, and right angles.

Geometry in Year 3 (age 7–8)

In Year 3, children will be expected to use accurate mathematical language to describe a wider range of symmetrical and non-symmetrical shapes. This includes:

• drawing 2D shapes and making 3D shapes
• identifying angles greater or less than a right angle
• identifying horizontal, vertical, parallel, and perpendicular lines.

Geometry in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, children will be expected to expand their knowledge of the properties of shapes, and they will be able to describe the position of shapes on a coordinate grid. This includes:

• comparing shapes such as quadrilaterals and triangles based on their properties and sizes
• drawing mirror images of shapes in lines of symmetry
• plotting points and describing how shapes move up/down/left/right on a coordinate grid.

Geometry in Year 5 (age 9–10)

In Year 5, children will be expected to be able to solve problems about shapes by reasoning using their knowledge of geometric properties. This includes:

• drawing and measuring angles in degrees
• finding missing angles at a point, on a line, and in rectangles
• describing translations and reflections of shapes on a four-quadrant coordinate grid.

Geometry in Year 6 (age 10–11)

In Year 6, children will be expected to be able to construct shapes accurately and find unknown angles in triangles, quadrilaterals, and regular polygons. This includes:

• drawing 2D shapes from given dimensions and angles and building 3D shapes from nets
• illustrating and naming parts of a circle, such as radius, diameter, and circumference
• drawing, translating, and reflecting shapes in the axes of a coordinate grid.

How to help at home

You don’t need to be an expert to support your child with maths! Here are three simple but effective ways to help your child develop their understanding of geometry.

1. Speak ‘shape language’

Look for shapes in the world around you and help your child to use accurate mathematical language to describe them in terms of their properties. For example:

It has six faces.

It has twelve edges.

It has eight corners (or vertices).

It has right angles.

It has two lines of symmetry.

2. Make a treasure map

Help your child to draw a map of your house or garden on a coordinate grid. Take turns to hide ‘treasure’ around the house and give each other coordinates from the map as clues for the position of hidden objects.

Activity: Desert island treasure hunt

Play with a friend to learn about coordinates.

3. Play guessing games

Imagine a 2D or 3D shape. Can your child guess your shape by asking questions about its properties? Can they draw or make it from modelling dough just from your description? Can they identify shapes by touch alone?

Video support

How to describe 2D and 3D shapes

Learn all about common 2D and 3D shapes, parallel and perpendicular lines, faces, edges, and vertices in this short animation.

What is an angle?

Homework help! Learn about acute, obtuse, and reflex angles in this short animation.

Maths glossary

Use these quick links or explore our education glossary for simple definitions and examples of mathematical terms.

• 2D (or ‘two-dimensional’) shapes are flat shapes. They have length and width but no thickness.
• 3D (or ‘three-dimensional’) shapes are solid shapes. They have length, width, and height.
• Coordinates are two numbers or letters that describe a position on maps, graphs, and charts.
• A Polygon is any 2D shape with straight sides. Triangles, squares, and rectangles are types of polygon.
• Something is symmetrical if one half is exactly the same as the other half but the opposite way round.

Search our education glossary >