Finding the shape that results from cutting a three-dimensional shape is a fun topic. Students really enjoy this topic. When you look for ideas for teaching this topic, you’ll inevitably find an introductory activity using play-doh. Students make the 3-D shapes out of play-doh and then cut them with a string of some sort. But there’s other ways to help students see and understand this topic, so I’m sharing 12 other activities today (but you can see some different versions of this play-doh activity here and here).
One thing that I find interesting about teaching this topic is that it’s about three dimensions, but students have to understand it in a two dimensional space on paper or computer screens. That’s something that makes this topic unique.
In my class we do a lot of practice with both paper and online games and activities. In this post I’d like to share some of these ideas with you. There’s a lot of hands-on things for students to do, and they really get into these activities. You’ll see that this list of activities offers a wide range of practice.
Here is the list:
Let’s dive in
People really seem to like this tic tac toe game. It includes four different tic tac toe cards. Three of the cards have just plain old shapes and the last one has real objects. You can use this activity as an anticipatory set. Also, it works really well for a fast finisher partner activity. I especially love the real world examples. Students play in partners and end up talking a lot about the shapes they’re examining and their cross sections. Overall, this game gets students some practice of visualizing 3D shapes on paper and thinking about what the cross sections look like.
I love the versatility of task cards. You can do so many different activities like Scoot, partner work, whole class with whiteboards, or exit tickets. This set of task cards includes 27 cards. The first 9 cards review the names of the three-dimensional figures and the other 18 cards review identifying the shape that results from a 3-D slice. These task cards are perfect for some easy and quick practice.
Geogebra has some pretty awesome online tools. Without question, my favorite is their cross sections and solids tool for this topic. This gives kids such a cool, interactive look at what we mean by cross sections of three-dimensional shapes. Within this tool is a variety of shapes and you can manipulate the slicing in different ways. You can pair this with our graphic organizer below, and then students don’t have to just be shooting in the dark when working with these shapes. You’ll definitely want to model how to use it and show students the different features. They love working with tools like this on the computer.
When you’re looking for an activity to get students out of worksheet mode, you could try this cube game. It includes two different ways to play and gives students a lot of repetitions with identifying cross-sections.One of the versions of this cube activity uses a graphic organizer and is played with the whole class. You roll the cube and then identify different characteristics of the 3D figures. The other version of the game is for partners or small groups and uses cards and cubes. Students choose a card and then roll the cube that has a variety of questions on it. They have to answer the questions. My kids love playing this game because it’s social, and I love it because they get so many repetitions in such a short amount of time.
Matching activities give students another way of looking at concepts. In this matching activity students are given a shape and they have to find the cross sections that are parallel to the base, perpendicular to the base, and diagonal to the base. They use a work mat and place little pieces of paper. My students have expressed that they like cutting out and moving the paper around. You can reuse the set (as a center, etc.), or you can have students glue it down and put it in their interactive notebook.
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I love graphic organizers. When I was first a teacher, I had a 4 hour block class with ELL students. We worked on learning English for most of the day. I used a lot of graphic organizers like this one, and ever since then I’ve been kind of obsessed with them. In this graphic organizer, students answer the same question multiple times with different shapes. It’s a great tool to help students get talking about cross sections in an academic way. All they have to do is take their answer and mold it into a sentence. This works especially well with ELLs and special education students. Download it for free here.
This worksheet has some great visuals to help students see the slicing in cross sections. You could have students work on this activity with a partner and get some math talk going. Also, you could use it as a whole class activity and show students one of the examples at a time. Then, I would have students answer questions on their whiteboards or SmartPals. Here are some questions you could use:
- What 2D shape results from the slice shown in the picture?
- How does it change if you slice it in a different direction?
- What is the base of this shape and how many faces does it have?
There are many things that you can do to make worksheets be more than worksheets. As you can see above, one easy way to enhance it is just by going a little farther with the questions and illustrations from the worksheet.
I love it when kids can manipulate math on their on terms and try to figure things out. It makes math more real and not just a list of steps. This flyer is amazing for doing just that. Students can see a variety of shapes like a cone, cylinder, pyramid, and prisms. Also, they can change the base and move the cross-section around. Before I have them try out specific things with this tool, I let students take a few minutes and just play with it. You’ll love listening to the way your students talk while using this online tool.
This performance task from Illustrative Mathematics is a performance task where students have to take what they’ve learned about cross sections and put it into practice. The name of the task is Cube Ninjas, which I love because I think kids love anything with the word ninja in it. If you like to ham it up you can do a whole ninja routine when you’re introducing this activity. I might do that if I’m in the right mood!
The task itself asks students to analyze different slices of a cube. They have to draw a diagram and use precise mathematical language to describe what is happening. If you’re short on time (like me most of the time), you could give different slices to different groups and do a sort of jigsaw activity. At the end of the time let each group do a quick presentation of their findings.
This video from PBS Video is very funny and works great as an anticipatory set during this unit. They have a group of kids that are acting out a infomercial selling things that make slices of different foods. I like this because it gives everyone real life examples of these slices. Plus, it’s memorable. When we all watch something that is memorable, like this video, it gives us something that we can refer to through the unit. After students watch the video make sure to have them talk about it with a partner. Give them a chance to digest what they’ve seen in the video.
This worksheet will give you a little bit of practice for your students in a test-like, multiple choice form. I like to use games with worksheets. The game I used with this worksheet is called 4 card pick ‘em. The teacher puts the problem on the doc cam and the students complete it on their whiteboard. When everyone finishes the teacher asks for questions about the problem and whoever answers gets to pick a card from the deck. Once each of the four students has picked a card, then the rest of the students write down one of the student’s names that they think will have the highest card. The student with the highest card gets 4 points, the next highest gets 3 points, the next highest gets 2 points, and the lowest card gets 1 point. The rest of the class gets the number of points that the student they chose earned. This simple game just adds a little fun to answering some questions.
The worksheets in this link have detailed pictures of some cross-sections and ask what cross-section comes from it. Also, you could ask about the base, the name of the shape, or how many faces it has. These worksheets help to reinforce some of the basics of this concept.
Kahoot is a computer-based game that gets the whole class into practicing cross sections of 3D shapes. This Kahoot has 27 questions to get kids thinking. If 27 questions sounds like too much, remember that you can download the game to your account and you can edit it. You can delete some of the questions and make it a quicker game. Sometimes kids get a little too into Kahoot and you have to remind them that we’re practicing and not just playing a game.
The questions in this Kahoot are either about what shape results from a specific cross-section, or which shape could have a specific cross-section. There isn’t a huge variety of questions, but it does get a lot of practice rather quickly. Also, remember that the results from Kahoot games can be downloaded to your Google Drive, making it a nice formative assessment.
Try one thing
We’ve looked at a lot of activities, but you likely don’t have time to do them all. My challenge to you is to try one new thing and see how it goes. If it goes well, then you can add that activity or tool to your teacher bag of tricks.
Thanks so much for reading! Until next time.
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