The study of 3-dimensional shapes is a part of geometry. All 3-dimensional figures must have height, width and length. Their flat surfaces are called faces, the sides of which are called lateral faces. Edges are formed where faces meet, and vertices are formed where edges meet.

- Paper
- Adhesive tape

Examine the shape to determine if it meets the criteria for a 3-dimensional shape: height, width and length. A picture of a 3-dimensional shape is 2-dimensional. The actual object we can touch is 3-dimensional.

Identify 3-dimensional shapes with curved surfaces. A sphere is a symmetrical, 3-dimensional figure shaped like a ball. It has no flat sides and no corners. Every point on the curved surface of the sphere is equidistant from the center of the sphere. A cone has a flat base that is circular in shape, topped with a rotated, right-angled triangle that results in a curved surface ending in a point, called a vertex.

Locate shapes with all flat surfaces (or faces). How many are there? A triangular prism is a 3-dimensional shape with three rectangular sides, and two ends that are triangles. A triangular prism has a triangular cross-section all the way along its length. Rectangular prisms have six faces that are all rectangles, with a cross-section that is a square. Cubes are equal in height, width and length. All six faces are square. Rectangular prisms and cubes, which are also prisms, are called cuboids.

Look for examples of 3-dimensional shapes in everyday life. Basketballs are spheres. Ice cream cones are cones. A pup tent is a triangular prism. A gift box is a rectangular prism. Dice are cubes.

Make paper examples of various 3-dimensional shapes. Adding a “hands-on” element to learning these shapes increases familiarity.

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About the Author

Annette Strauch has been a writer for more than 30 years. She has been a radio news journalist and announcer, movie reviewer for Family Movie Reviews Online, chiropractic assistant and medical writer. Strauch holds a Master of Arts in speech/broadcast journalism from Bob Jones University, where she also served on the faculty of the radio/TV department.

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