Rotational & Radial Symmetry: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Emily Hume

Emily is a Reading Specialist and Literacy coach in a public elementary school with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

Symmetry is all around you! In this lesson, you will learn about two types of symmetry: rotational and radial. You will learn the definition of both and how to recognize these types of symmetry in shapes and objects.

What is Symmetry?

Go grab a piece of paper and a pair of scissors. Be careful! Cut the paper exactly down the center. What do you notice about the two pieces you now have? The two sides are exactly the same - they have symmetry! Now that you know how to recognize it, you will see that there are many objects and shapes in your home that have symmetry.

Types of Symmetry

Symmetry is simple, right? So how can there be different types? Let's explore two types: rotational and radial.

What is Rotational Symmetry?

Do you have a bicycle? Take a look at the tire - watch it turn. What do you notice? No matter how many times it turns, or rotates, the tire looks the same: the same shape, color, size, etc. This is called rotational symmetry. As it rotates, the symmetry is preserved.

Let's find another example! Go outside and find a four-leaf clover. Just kidding, that would take way too long! Check out the one in the image 'Objects with rotational symmetry'. As it makes quarter turns, the clover keeps its same shape, color, and size. It is identical, no matter how many times you turn it. It has rotational symmetry, just like the bike tire!

Objects with rotational symmetry
Objects with Rotational Symmetry

Radial Symmetry

Radial symmetry is similar to rotational symmetry, but here's the difference: an object or shape with radial symmetry does not move in order to show symmetry. Instead, the object is divided with a line and each side of the line is identical - just like the piece of paper you cut in half! Let's look at another example. Go find a kickball, one that's all one color. If you cut it in half, it would be identical on either side. It wouldn't matter how you held it as you cut it - horizontally, diagonally, or vertically, it would still be the same on each side of the cut line. It has radial symmetry!

Objects with radial symmetry
Radial Symmetry Plus Sign and Orange Slice

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