Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Make a Polyhedron

Original post: click here

I've gotten lots of questions on how to go about teaching the Polyhedron project, so I'm going to post some tips and tricks. The first bit comes directly from email correspondence with Micah Snider who taught me how to make the polyhedrons. I found her students work posted on Artsonia.

Make sure the kids cut carefully!! They’re hard to put together if they don’t.

Oh, and dots all go on the inside! If not the shape of the rhombus (you’ll see on inside as you build) will reverse and start making a football shape and won’t make a full ball shape.

Good luck!! It’s stressful first time through, but we jam to music and cut. Then I demo putting it together for small groups as they’re finishing cutting. They never all finish cutting on the same day. My kids finish in spurts. About 4-5 at a time… I use those who pick up on it quick to help others when they’re done with theirs

1) Does it have to be built from 30 pieces?
yes, 30 pieces. ends up perfect every time

2) Roughly, what size are your individual polygon pieces? Mine are about 3x4. The assembled polyhedron is about 9" in diameter. It's pretty large!
my pieces are a little smaller than a playing card. i made a sheet from tracing that size 6 times on one sheet of paper. i then run it through the copier onto bright colored cardstock (i use the jumbo variety pack of 200 sheets i think from Hobby Lobby)

3) Is it correct if there are sometimes up to 5 notches coming together and in other areas only 3?
yep, you'll see notches in groups of 3 and 5 only

4) How long (on average) does it take your kids to put the pieces together? Do you let them struggle a little as you work with them in small groups? I'm afraid I'm going to have a lot of whining and I'll turn into the coach!
about 5 classes of 45 min to finish. i have a handful who have went past that, but they're almost done and will have to finish during lunch recess(if indoors) i have some kids who seem to drag along with the cutting. i try to get them working without sounding like i'm getting on to them. my kiddos go into shut down mode if i sound like i'm coming down on them hard...but this year out of about 90 5th graders, i've had trouble with one student trying to "give up." i'm still working with him. he's new to the school, i don't really have a relationship with him yet. it's a tough one when they have to do something difficult. i've found that talking/listening to the kids while they cut helps keep them going, i'm usually cutting papers and working on one with them as well and move around the room to talk to everyone. if they see me working they seem to keep working along with me. once some kids are done, i let them help friends with cutting and putting together...they just aren't allowed to do all the work. a lot of my kids enjoy helping out their classmates.

5) Kids want instant gratification. Do you find they give up easily?
some try to give up at times, but i don't let them...they've come to understand good work comes from hard work and most suck it up.

6) I was thinking they could trace one whole sheet of shapes and then hold it on top of another piece of paper to cut down a little on cutting time. Would that type of shortcut ruin the pieces?
I've had kids lay one sheet on top of another and cut so they cut down on time that way. though, if a kid cannot cut well, they'll probably screw up and waste the paper trying to cut two sheets(my experience)

What I learned:
My students used 9x12 construction paper and they have turned out just fine. The best thing to do is sit down and make one yourself. There really are no hard and fast rules, you have to experience it to be able to help the kids. I hate to say it, but there really are no real "directions" to share. You just figure it out by playing. You will find that some of the kids just "get it" too and some just won't!

Some of my students have poor cutting skills and I have ended up doing quite a bit of cutting, so be prepared. I have also done a lot of assembling. I figure that these roadblocks will begin to disappear as I have more experience teaching the assignment. It is a challenge, but it pays off in the end. Oh, and I made polygon tracers using a thick paper.

IMPORTANT: All of the polygon shapes MUST get some kind of mark on one side only so that if they are all stacked in one pile, they all have a mark on the same side. You wouldn't believe how many sculptures had to be taken apart because one or two shapes were placed into the piece the wrong way. I told the kids that the instant they traced a polygon, make a dot on it!! If they held two pieces of paper together to cut down on tracing time (I really recommend this), I told them to make sure that the shape underneath got a mark the instant cutting was finished.

Here is a link to the polygon shape you will need for tracing:
**Scroll down the page and you will see it under the pictures of the lamps**

*I cut and pasted mine into a word document and resized it so that I could make tracers. I wanted a tracer that would easily fit 5 polygons to a sheet of 9x12 paper.



  1. What is the purpose of putting the dot on the pieces?

  2. Hi Sarah, if you don't put the dot on the same side of every piece, you run the risk of the pieces getting turned over. The dot basically serves as a guideline to keep everything facing the same way. If the pieces are put together with the wrong "faces" out , the polyhedron will not come together correctly.


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