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Teaching Geometry with Architecture: Elementary Activities

written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 7/12/2012

Combining a social studies unit in ancient architecture with geometry concepts will challenge students to look at shapes in an entirely new way. For instance, ancient Romans utilized the arch in their building, while the pyramids of ancient Egypt are classic examples of the strength of triangles.

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    One Shape at a Time

    This lesson on geometry and architecture for kids uses concepts of geometry to help students recognize shapes in ancient structures. Students will need time to comprehend fully the nuances of geometry. Begin with basics, such as the pyramids. This allows classroom teachers or parents homeschooling to build on the prior knowledge of the student. By 4th grade, most children have heard of or seen pictures of the pyramids.

    Once the student has grasped the concepts of triangles, move on to another well-known shape, the arch. Ancient Romans used the arch in everything from aqueducts to coliseums.

    Roman ruins outside of Kriefeld, Germany 

    From the arch, it is a simple step to discussing circles. Circles have great strength. The ancients used circle to hold up towers, tents, and wells.

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    Hands On

    As the students begin to grasp the concepts, provide an opportunity for them to create models of what they learned. In this way, they demonstrate their understanding of geometry.

    Romanesque church in Germany 

    Ideas for how to do this include:


    • Using various materials, build a pyramid
    • Create a kite that flies - have a contest for the highest flight
    • Create a paper airplane (triangular shaped) that flies - have a contest for the one that flies the furthest


    • Make models of an aqueduct or coliseum
    • Demonstrate the difference between the strength of an arch and that of a straight board using cardboard


    • Make a model of a tower
    • Make a vehicle using various materials for wheels
    • Create dioramas of ancient tents from various cultures
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    Create an Ancient Architecture Corner

    In one corner of the classroom, create an Ancient Architecture Corner. Allow students to have an ongoing project to create models of ancient buildings. Have blocks and other manipulatives available for your 4th grade architects to use. Also, have sketchpads, art paper, glue, pencils, markers and other art supplies accessible so that the students can create sketches, collages and "blueprints" for their models. These can be hung on the walls when complete.

    windmills in the Netherlands 

    Models should have space to be displayed without being disturbed. At the end of the unit, students can present what they have created, telling why they made it and what geometric shapes are incorporated in their models.

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    Linking Past with Present

    Before the end of this unit, have students pick on famous ancient building, then have them research a building(s) today that are model after their ancient building. To help them with this project, have picture books on architecture from both the past and present. If possible, have multiple copies of architectural magazines that students can cut pictures from for their reports.

    The following sites can also be used to help students find connections.


    By supplying multiple ways for students to work with 4th grade geometry, their understanding of the subject will be more comprehensive.

    Photo Credit: L. M. Neas