Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

Transformations are on their way out as an elementary standard.  Currently a mainstay of 4th grade, both the CCSS and the newly adopted Texas TEKS move transformations to the 8th grade.  But for now, we still have to help our kiddos understand translations, reflections, and rotations.

Part of why this is a hard concept for students is that the words are very abstract. They are not words kids use in everyday conversations.  One way to help students remember the different transformations is to connect words they are familiar with to the formal mathematical vocabulary.  A reFLection is a FLip, a tranSLation is a SLide, and a roTation is a Turn.

Kiddos need lots of practice seeing different transformations and practicing the vocabulary.  I made a set of flashcards that you can copy on cardstock, hole punch, and put on a O-ring.  Keep them close by and flash a few cards when you have a few minutes, letting students determine the transformation shown.

Ready for a culminating activity to close out your study of transformations?  Print out this multiple choice stem, give students strips of pictures to use (grab the file below), and have them make the poster shown below (it prints on 11 x 17 paper).   For a fun review activity, mark each poster with a letter and hang them around the room or in the hallway.  Give students a recording sheet and let them travel from poster to poster recording their answers.

Click here to grab your freebie!


  1. Andrea McEvoy

    Hi Donna! Thanks for the freebie and the info. on transformations getting moved. I am in Va. so I wonder if transformations will stay in our standards or we will someday soon adopt the CCSS!

    One Teacher’s Take

    • Donna Boucher

      My pleasure, Andrea! All I know is that our new TEKS pretty much mirror CCSS, although we are a CCSS hold-out, too. 🙂

  2. Stacy

    I’ve actually marked our pattern blocks with black dots in the corner and we practice demonstrating the different transformations. It helps! We also relate back to the more familiar terms: flip, slide, and turn, but I never matched the letters up visually before. That is a GREAT idea. Thanks for sharing, Stacy @

    • Donna Boucher

      Oh, that’s cool, Stacy! I don’t even remember where I got the letter match-ups or when I first started using it, but it’s a great visual for the kiddos. 🙂

  3. Ms.M from Teachingisagift

    Hi Donna,
    Here in Ontario the students start with transformational geometry in grade 4 and it continues each year right up into middle school and beyond. Do you ever teach the non-congruent shape as being a dilation? I was wondering why you included the non-congruent shape. Is it for review purposes? When I saw it, I thought it must be a dilation.
    Ms. M

    • Donna Boucher

      That’s how the progression has been in Texas–starts in 4th grade and builds. But that will change with our new TEKS. The reason for including the non-congruent shapes is to make the point that it’s not a transformation if the shapes aren’t congruent. They’ve been tested that way here in TX, so I included it.

    • Ms.M from Teachingisagift

      Thanks for letting me know. I guess I am lucky that they don’t include this in the testing here in Ontario. I will still use the shape and perhaps reinforce the point you made about non-congruent shapes NOT be a transformation. Some of my students are still stumped by congruent and similar shapes!

  4. luckeyfrog

    Thanks for the tip of using the letters to help kids remember which transformation is which! I’ve never noticed that before, and it’ll really help. Thanks!

    Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad

    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, Jenny, it’s a nifty little trick! 🙂


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