Let's get creative with 3D shapes

When helping your children with maths at home how often does some 3D shape work feature? I sometimes feel that it can slip off the radar and not always be looked at. When our children are little we spend a lot of time going over basic shapes but as they get older we tend to focus more on numbers and forget the other aspects of the subject.

Shape is as important as the number work and is much more effectively taught if done little and often. Children know the shape names but often don't get enough practice at looking at those shapes and putting names to shapes so end up with a vague knowledge on something that should be secure.

As a parent it is always useful to bring shapes into the conversation on a regular basis. Sometimes just identifying different shapes and giving them names, whether it be 2D or 3D. Another time you could focus on one shape and discuss the properties. For example: choose one shape and spend a day identifying it where ever you go and asking 'what makes it that particular shape?' Why do you think it's a ...?'. Nothing too serious or heavy, just simple identification to keep the knowledge of shapes fresh.

Anyway I thought this week would be a good week to do something with 3D shapes.

The activity is going to start off the same for all ages:

make a 3D shape!

I have attached various shape nets so you can use these to get started:
Alternate cube
Alternate, alternate cube
Rectangular prism / cuboid
Triangular Prism
Pentagonal Prism

On this activity the differentiation comes in with each individual child and their interests and abilities. Some children love the creativeness in making the net, others love the arty, crafty decoration at the end etc. Below I have listed some different ways you can make this activity fun, interesting and mathematical for your child. Choose the variation that you and your child will get the most from and then alter it according to your child's age, ability and enthusiasm! Generally these activities become increasingly more difficult and challenging so my advice would be Pre-school for the first one and much older children for the last but they can all be tweaked and altered to suit your child.

  • Talk about different 3D shapes, including some comparisons. Discuss which is your childs favourite shape and then make a model of that shape together. As you go discuss how the net works and the properties of the shape. Let your child have fun decorating it once it is complete. You could do a cube / cuboid and make it into a little treasure box for them.

  • Cut out and score along the folds of three different nets for the same shape. Demonstrate to your child how one of these can be folded together to make a shape and then see if they can fold the other two. Let them play with all three for a while and just explore how they work. An extension for an older child might then be to create their own net for the same shape.

  • Make nets for three cubes, each one slightly bigger than the previous. Together fold the nets and make the shapes. Once the shapes have been made explore them together. Talk about their differences and similarities, the number of faces, vertices and edges. A final activity you can do here is to decorate. Stack them one on top of the other and draw four different faces on the outward faces of the top one, four different bodies on the middle faces and four sets of feet and legs on the bottom faces. Twist and turn and have fun creating people!

  • Make nets for three prisms the same apart from that each one is slightly bigger than the previous. Fold and make the 3D shape for each one and then, as in the above activity, spend time looking at the different shapes and compare using the language of shape. This is a great activity for developing an understanding of prisms, which can be quite difficult. Once they have compared the prisms then ask your child to create their own net for a similar prism.

  • Go shape hunting around the house and see what interesting 3D shapes you can find. Encourage your child to choose their favourite and try to recreate it. For younger children, obviously you would need to provide the basic net but older children could have a go at creating their own net to recreate the shape.

  • For older children a favourite activity from my classroom days was to do a little bit of warm up work on nets to remind them how they work. Then I would give them a piece of cardboard and tell them to go and make any 3D shape they chose. This was such a creative and fun activity. At the same time it was really good in encouraging children to learn about 3D shapes and their nets.

Have fun with your shapes this week

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