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Sorting and classifying dinosaurs

dinosaur toys

Matching socks in our house is a constant source of pain. Sorting is a skill that is vital to STEM, although it is sometimes not even recognised as a skill. Sorting things by different attributes is a maths skill that is learnt in early childhood. It takes quite a high level of abstraction to sort things in a variety of different ways. Do you sort by colour, size, shape, preference, owner or, in the case of socks in our house, fluffiness?

A wonderful way of sorting blocks might be by colour but it could also be by shape, number of sides, number of edges or another method. You can turn it into a game: Decide which rule you’re using to sort your blocks and ask someone to observe and guess which rule it is.

Model dinosaurs can be sorted into carnivores, omnivores or herbivores. Once they are sorted, you can look at the different features of the dinosaurs. When you see a dinosaur for the first time, what makes you think it is a carnivore or a herbivore? Invent your own dinosaur. What habitat does it live in? What does it eat? You can think about what features a desert dinosaur would have had compared to one that lived near the ocean and ate fish. By the way, a dinosaur is strictly a land animal. They might occasionally swim but an ichthyosaur for instance is not a dinosaur. It’s an extinct marine reptile.

Dinosaurs also can be sorted into two major groups: bird-hipped (ornithischia) and lizard-hipped (saurischia). You can find a good description of the difference on this website, which also mentions an interesting connection between the hip bones and diet.

Thinking about the connection between what the dinosaur looks like and what it does can lead to many interesting discoveries. However, you could also start simple and sort your dinosaurs by size, colour or (like my daughter does) fluffiness!

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

This passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.

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