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Let Us Reflect

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level

Let's Reflect

You will need a mirror for this activity.

Here is a square:


Where can you put the mirror across the square so that you can still 'see' the whole square?
How many different positions are possible?
How many lines of symmetry does a square have?

Can you reflect part of the square so that you can see a smaller square?
A rectangle? A kite? A hexagon? An octagon?
What do all the shapes have in common?

This problem has been adapted from the book "Starting from Mirrors" by David Fielker, published by BEAM Education. This book is out of print but can still be found on Amazon.

Why do this problem?

This problem enables children to explore the line symmetry of 2D shapes. The practical nature of the activity means that experimentation is possible and therefore it is readily accessible.

Possible approach

Ideally, children should each have a mirror for this activity. Being able to move the mirror yourself and seeing the effect is much more powerful than watching someone else doing it.

You could introduce the first part of the problem orally, giving children a chance to experiment with their mirrors. Printing off sheets of squares may be useful. Once one way is shared between the whole group, challenge pairs of children to come up with all the other ways of seeing the whole square. Record them on the board as lines on the square and ask the children what they notice (the lines all correspond with the square's lines of symmetry). The rest of the problem can be tackled by the children at their own pace.

You could have some square templates on the board, one labelled rectangle, one kite etc and learners could come to the front to mark on a line which works. Encourage them to make generalisations about where the mirror must be placed in each case.

Key questions

Where are the lines of symmetry on a rectangle/kite/hexagon/octagon?
How does this help you think about where to place the mirror on the square?

Possible extension

Learners could investigate which other 2D shapes they can 'see' using their mirror. Which are not possible and why? What would happen if the shape used was different? For example, if it was a triangle rather than a square?

Possible support

Having plastic/wooden shapes available to remind children of their properties might be helpful. Other learners might appreciate having some rough paper or a mini-whiteboard to sketch on as they tackle this problem.