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Geoboard

What are Geoboards?

Developed by Egyptian-born, English mathematics scholar Caleb Gattegno, Geoboards are a tool used to teach children geometry. They were originally created as wooden squares with nails or brass pins in a variety configurations, upon which rubber bands could be stretched into various shapes.

Why should I use them?

Gattegno theorized that in order for students to be able to integrate mathematical concepts into formalized rules, they first needed to “experience” the concept. As such, geoboards provide students with the experience of creating shapes, rotating shapes, subdividing them into subshapes, representing elements and relations, exploring angles, and concretely exploring the properties of geometric objects.

Virtual geoboards in particular have a very practical benefit of avoiding the use of actual rubber bands that can be a distraction in the classroom. In her discussion of the first time she used geoboards in the classroom, veteran teacher Marilyn Burns shared this funny story:

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

Although virtual geoboards offer many advantages over physical geoboards, few experts using only one to the exclusion of the other. Rather, the tools can be see as complements to one another and the benefits may depend on the particular resources available in each specific classroom or schooling environment.