Directing Me


This unit introduces some of the key concepts of position and direction in the context of a series of games.

Achievement Objectives
GM1-3: Give and follow instructions for movement that involve distances, directions, and half or quarter turns.
GM1-4: Describe their position relative to a person or object.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Describe where objects are using the language of position.
  • Give and follow instructions using the language of position and direction.
Description of Mathematics

At Level 1 the Position element of Geometry consists of gaining experience in using everyday language to describe position and direction of movement, and interpreting others’ descriptions of position and movement.

Spatial understandings are developed around four types of mathematical questions: direction (which way?), distance (how far?), location (where?), and representation (what objects?). In answering these questions, students need to develop a variety of skills that relate to direction, distance, and position in space.

Teachers should extend young students' knowledge of relative position in space through conversations, demonstrations, and stories. When students act out the story of the three billy goats and illustrate over and under, near and far, and between, they are learning about location, space, and shape. Gradually students should distinguish navigation ideas such as left and right along with the concepts of distance and measurement. As they build three-dimensional models and read maps of their own environments, students can discuss which blocks are used to represent various objects like a desk or a file cabinet. They can mark paths on the model, such as from a table to the wastebasket, with masking tape to emphasise the shape of the path. Teachers should help students relate their models to other representations by drawing a map of the same room that includes the path. In similar activities, older students should develop map skills that include making route maps and using simple coordinates to locate their school on a city map (Liben and Downs 1989).

Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to differentiate include:

  • continuing to model correct directions, and allow students to repeat your answers until they are ready to give their own directions.
  • challenging students to make more complex buildings or pictures.

This unit is primarily focused on supporting students to understand and use the language of position and direction. The activities can be adapted to make them more interesting by adding contexts that are familiar to them, for example, they could be following directions to find one of the class toys instead of a box. If appropriate, you may also choose to include the home languages of students in your class.

Required Resource Materials
  • Multi link cubes
  • Crayons/pens

Getting Started

  1. Introduce the topic of position by asking a series of questions that require answers that use position and direction language. Where are the crayons? (On the shelf, at the back of the class.) Where is Sarah sitting? (On the mat, beside Sally, behind Lia.) Where would I have to walk to get outside? (Around the teacher’s desk, past the tote trays, through the door.)
  2. As students answer questions write down the words they use that describe position or direction.
  3. Ask students to suggest why you have chosen these words to write down.
  4. Explain that these are words that we use to describe where things are or where they are going.
  5. Add to the list to include any other words students can suggest. Ensure that all students understand all the words on the list. Retain this list to refer back to during the week.
  6. Now try asking some questions to test students understanding. I am thinking of something that is under Sam’s desk – what is it? (chair) I am thinking of something that is on the shelf beside the dictionaries – what is it? (atlas)
  7. Play a game of Simon Says, using language of position and direction. (Simon Says: stand on your chair, crouch under your desk, turn to your left/right, step forward/backward, put your left/right hand up)


Over the next few days the students should be introduced to games which reinforce their understanding of the language they discussed on the first day.

My Building

In this activity students are practicing using the language of position to describe a ‘building’ they have made from multi link cubes (or similar).

  1. One student builds a ‘building’ from multi link cubes, hiding it from their partner.
  2. They then describe the building to their partner so that they can replicate it. Encourage the use of language of direction. “The red cube is on top of the blue cube, the green cube is on the left of the blue cube, the yellow cube is in front of the blue cube.”
  3. Compare buildings to see if they are the same.

Students should start with only three or four cubes all of different colours, and increase the number only if they get the first few correct.
This activity could be done using other equipment if multi link cubes are not available (cuisenaire rods, lego, etc.)
This activity could also be a small group, or whole class activity if there is enough equipment for everyone to have some. The teacher could give the instructions while everyone else builds, then students take a turn at giving instructions.

My Picture

This activity is the same as ‘My Building’, except that instead of building the students draw, using crayons, or coloured pens. They should use simple shapes, For example “I have drawn a blue circle in the middle of the page. There is a red square on the left, and a pink triangle on top of the square. On the right there is a brown oval.”

Which Box?

In this activity students follow directions to one of five boxes/containers. On a tennis court or field place 5 boxes. Mark places on the field for groups of children to stand. The students follow instructions from their spot to a box.


This game is like the Which Box? activity but students play in pairs. One player is directed to go to fetch an object placed somewhere on the field by following instructions given by their partner. Encourage the use of a variety of language of direction. (Turn left/right, straight ahead, move to the left/right, put your hand down on your left/right, etc.)


Ask students to write a story, which uses as many of the words from the class list of position/direction words as possible. Provide support and reinforcement – possibly read a story such as “Where’s Spot?” to get students thinking on the right track.

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Level One