Thursday, 5 March 2015

Yet another error in new Mathematics Primary Curriculum: 'irregular'

Call me pedantic if you wish, but I do think that mathematical terms used in the Mathematics National Curriculum should be used correctly. The misuse of the word 'irregular' is my latest find. This occurs in the measurement section of the Year 5 Mathematics Curriculum programme of study:

'Calculate and compare the area of rectangles (including squares) ... and estimate the area of irregular shapes.'

This statement seems to imply that a non-square rectangle is a 'regular' shape. The word 'irregular' is used here for two-dimensional shapes where you cannot calculate the area exactly using a formula, such as the outline of an island or that of a fried egg. These are irregular, but so are all rectangles that are not squares, all triangles that are not equilateral, and so on.

So, let's tidy this up. A regular two-dimensional shape is one where all the sides are equal in length and all the internal angles are equal. So, the only quadrilaterals that are regular are squares. All others are irregular, including non-square rectangles.

All these shapes, for example, are irregular polygons:

The National Curriculum needs another way of describing the other kinds of 2-D shapes that it has in mind for which Year 5 children should learn to estimate the area. I usually call them non-standard shapes or non-geometric shapes.

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