Squares and Rectangles, What Are They Teaching Our Children?


As a tech geek and a math nut from the time I was in 5th grade, I was astonished when my daughter gave me the following problem and my wife questioned my answer based on what Camille was taught last year in Kindergarten.

The Question

It is not a Triangle, it is not a rectangle, what is it?

Planes question

You should color in the circle under the proper answer. What do you think the answer is? There is only one answer to the question and I feel that it is rather easy if you have been taught the proper definitions to all the shapes above.

Let’s Solve It

The first part of the question “It is not a Triangle” obviously removes the triangle from being the right answer. That leaves us with the other three shapes, so the second part of the question states “it is not a Rectangle” which eliminates the rectangle next to the triangle. We are now left with two other shapes, a circle and a square, but there can only be 1 answer to the question. Of course here is where the proper definitions come into play, which is where the teaching at the Kindergarten level left some things to be desired. A Square is a special type of rectangle under the definition of a rectangle which is:

A rectangle is a parallelogram whose sides intersect at 90° angles.  Now, since a rectangle is a parallelogram, its opposite sides must be congruent.

A Square is also a parallelogram whose sides intersect at 90° angles. Like a rectangle its opposite sides are congruent. However, a square is also a rhombus. and all of its sides are congruent. A rectangle is a square when both pairs of opposite sides  are the same length. This means that a square is a specialized case of the rectangle and is indeed a rectangle. So, that means that we can eliminate the square as one of the answers, leaving us with just the circle let to choose as the proper answer.

Kindergarten Taught What?

What they didn’t teach is that a square is a special rectangle. Because the teaching in kindergarten is so new to a lot of children I believe that everything is simplified and this part is left off. I don’t think that is right, because if they are going to get this type of question in 1st grade then they need to at least be exposed to it in Kindergarten. BY no means do I think my daughter got a bad education in Kindergarten, on the contrary I feel that she had an extremely good teacher and one that let Camille be the best she could be.

Unfortunately, in the first week of 1st grade my daughter is taught a new definition, in a homework question. She isn’t going to know the proper answer when she didn’t get all of the definition the year before. Maybe this is supposed to be a teaching moment for the children, but my wife was following what she had been taught the year before and I was contradicting that answer based on the correct answer. My daughter is questioning my answer because she learned something else and we have taught her to listen to your teacher. I did not work with my daughter on rectangles and squares in Kindergarten, but I will spend more time looking at every piece of work she does this year. I want her to get a better foundation, one that I know my wife and I can help give her in addition to what she is learning in school.

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Posted on August 25, 2011, in Elementary School Information, Florida, K-12 Education and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve been teaching 13 years. That is really interesting and cool. I’d never heard that one. I don’t understand why we try to trick kids though. You’d think as a profession, we’d have gotten away from that after all these years yet I see stuff like that on standard tests all the time.

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