As with plane shapes, children will learn to describe solid shapes in terms of their attributes. For example:
- Roundness or flatness
- Ability to roll or slide
- Number of sides or corners
They will also come to see how the plane shapes comprise the faces of solid shapes. This is an important idea, as the real world around us is three dimensions and made of solid shapes! The place where people see flat plane shapes is generally on the faces of 3-D objects. Because of this, it is common to teach solid shapes first before moving on to plane shapes, which we practice in HMH Into Math.
Tracing around the face of solids will help a child understand a cube differs from a rectangular prism because all six of its faces are squares. This will enrich the ways in which they can describe and compare solids. For example, a child might see that although both a cylinder and a sphere can roll, a sphere has no faces and cannot slide. A cylinder, on the other hand, has two circular faces, so it can both roll and slide. (But some cylinders will slide more easily than others!)
Extend the Lesson
- For students who are ready, you may want to show how the faces of cubes and rectangular prisms must meet at right angles, or all the points on a surface of a sphere are the same distance from a central point.
- Does your school have access to a 3-D printer? Don’t just describe shapes like cubes or spheres—actually create them! Present the 3-D printed objects to the class and have them share what they notice and wonder.
- Have students identify solid shapes in the real world! Either bring objects, such as an ice cream cone, number cube, or soccer ball, for students to describe and classify, or have students look for objects outside of school to share. Consider what interests your students. Look for buildings near the school and around the world with interesting shapes or balls from sports that your students like to play.
- Origami presents an exciting way to transform a flat plane shape into a solid shape. Look online for folding ideas, such as creating a cube. You can also look for printouts that let students construct 3-D shapes or have students create cubes, pyramids, and other solid shapes using toothpicks and marshmallows.
Once children can recognize and describe the attributes that distinguish plane and solid shapes, such as those that make a triangle different from a square or a cylinder different from a cone, they can begin to create and continue patterns. When children create or find patterns, they are using the attributes of not just one but of a series of shapes to determine the order or pattern.
Grow student confidence in mathematics with HMH Into Math, our core math solution for Grades K–8.