We have successfully used Magnatiles to explore 2D and 3D geometric shapes. Of course, kids are learning about all of these concepts through imaginative play with Magnatiles, but I thought we would use it as an opportunity to give names to some ideas and explore nets.
There are so many fun ways to use Magnatiles and we had discovered that they work nicely on a large, magnetic dry erase board. We often build on top of the board because it eliminates the need for extra bottom tiles. In this activity, we used our Magnatiles to understand 3D shapes.
To start off, we looked at the individual shapes. He was already familiar with the names for most of these. We talked about the difference between a square and a rectangle and how triangles can take many different forms. He also wanted to include the circle in our list. We discussed how it’s different from the other 2D shapes.
Then we looked at how those same flat shapes can come together to form the shapes with three dimensions: height, length, and width. I told him that we have special words to describe shapes and we counted the faces, vertices, and edges of our 3D shapes.
I have several, issues, I guess you could say, about the way we often present geometry. It seems like we start off with dumbed-down versions of some words–using diamond instead of rhombus or box instead of cube. Why do we do this? It just ends up making geometry more confusing down the road when they have to re-learn something.
Another issue that I noticed back when I was teaching upper elementary is that kids are often confused by standardized shapes. They have seen triangle presented in the same way for so many years that they are surprised to learn that a stretched-out isosceles is actually the same. Magnatiles have three different examples of a triangle, so there’s a lot to talk about. Kids like pushing definitions to the max, so making huge, fat triangles or teeny, skinny ones is also a fun activity.
Using Magnatiles for 3D Nets
Nets are sometimes tricky for people because they require some visualization. Magnatiles are a great tool to help manipulate an abstract net into a shape. Just lay out squares in the same pattern as a net and test it out. Remember, you have to pay attention to where the edges touch.
He got really into this and we tried to find all the different possible ways to make cubes, triangular pyramids, rectangular pyramids, and cubiods. This book is a fabulous resource too!