I'm reading a certain set of kindergarten/lower primary maths textbooks that is written by North American authors for a European company.

Whenever students are asked to identify the number of rectangles in a given picture, the answer booklet gives the number of oblongs instead of the number of rectangles.

While the topic may be too advanced for kindergarten students, the maths textbooks indeed explicitly say at the bottom of the first page of a textbook at the very first level to tell students that squares are special types of rectangles, where levels 1-4 are for kindergarten students.

Additionally, the accompany guide for teachers devotes a whole page of discussion as to how to teach that squares are special types of rectangles. There's even a paragraph about teaching to kindergarten students. The authors/some of the co-authors of the teacher guides are also authors/co-authors of the textbooks. They have also said that if students are taught that squares are not rectangles, then they will have misconceptions later.

Perhaps, the ones who wrote the answer booklets were not fluent in English while the ones who wrote the textbooks were.

For example

[picture with 4 circles, 2 triangles, 3 square rectangles, 2 oblong rectangles for a total of 5 rectangles]

Circle ___

Triangle ___

Square ___

Rectangle ___

The answer key would give only the numbers:





So, the last line is wrong since it should be 5.

Could this happen in Spanish? Or a Spanish dialect? I mean, is there something specific about the translations of any of the following words 'rectangle, square, oblong, quadrilateral, quadrangle, parallelogram, trapezoid/trapezium, rhombus' that would cause such confusion? I guess the translator/s thought that when English speakers say 'rectangle', it means 'oblong in their language/dialect, but I don't see that as specifically a problem for this particular language.

P.S. I'm a monolinguist.


In what curricula are “rectangles” defined so as to exclude squares?

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    Hello BCLC and welcome to Spanish Language! Since translations may be picky, some pictures would really help grasp the full idea of what you are referring to. For example, Wordreference says that oblong is a synonym of rectangle in Spanish.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 7:52
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    Also, technically speaking a square is a type of rectangle, only that with all sides being the same long. So rectangles = squares + oblongs. However, in common speaking people would not agree on that and would think that rectangles and squares are different things.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 7:52
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    When a primary math textbook is written, often the exercises are farmed out to cheaper labor than the authors whose names appear on the title page. In this day and age, the exercises more and more don't get checked by somebody who knows what they're doing. // I've found through experience that it is possible for five-year-olds to give an answer that a mathematician would consider correct. // Also note that primary school teachers are, most of them, math phobic to a high degree. Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 23:20
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    @bclc - What I have seen is that some teaching materials contain some badly posed questions. If there's an answer posted for a badly posed question, it will necessarily be nonsense. The underlying problem is the badly posed exercise, in general. I will say that when I was supplementing my children's math learning, in kindergarten and early elementary, I used a combination of Singapore Math books and homemade materials. Do check out math educators, it's a great SE site. // In short, the mess you found is extremely unlikely to have anything to do with translation. Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 16:11
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is primarily about mathematics and only tangentially, if at all, about the Spanish language.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


The translation of the solution is right.
I wouldn't say that the translation of the exercise is grammatically wrong, but it doesn't agree with that of the solution (which is right) so... it'd probably be better to rewrite the exercise.

What you call "oblong rectangle" is what in Spanish is considered a rectángulo: a parallelogram with four right angles in which contiguous sides are not of the same length.
Rectángulo can also be used as an adjective to mean any figure with right angles (so "right triangle" would be triángulo rectángulo, etc.) but, as a noun, it is specifically a rectangle (an oblong one, I mean).

What you call "square rectangle" is what in Spanish is considered a cuadrado: a figure with four equal-length sides and four right angles.

So yes: the picture contains 4 círculos, 2 triángulos, 3 cuadrados y 2 rectángulos.

Re: squares being just a type of rectangle: geometrically speaking, probably yes, and mathematicians might use the word rectángulo in a square-inclusive sense, but the relevance of such a concept outside of the field of Pure Maths and the usefulness of teaching it to little kids are off-topic here.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:20
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    I teach mathematics at secondary school in Spain (I teach in Catalan, but I also use Spanish at lessons because we are really a bilingual community) and I would say that the RAE definition of rectangle is wrong. It makes no sense to say that this is the definition of rectangle except for mathematicians. Let's imagine the situation of a student who has doubts, so he or she consults the dictionary...
    – Charo
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 15:18
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    “A student with doubts about the mathematical concept of rectangle should check a Maths book, not a dictionary”: while correct in principle, what use would dictionaries be, if we candidly admit that they may contain wrong definitions?
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 16:58
  • And, in this way, RAE can contribute to the lack of scientific culture of our country... Nice.
    – Charo
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 17:07
  • Just for the record, I think the solution is wrong, and I don't think the error occurred due to translation factors. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 1:30

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