Box or Not?

Age 5-9


Geometry and Spatial Sense​

  • Identify two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures and sort and classify them by their geometric properties.​
  • Compose and decompose two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures.​


  • This activity strengthens visualization skills, mental rotation skills, and supports a child’s ability to imagine transformation from a 2-D to a 3-D structure.​
  • Children look at pre-arranged square frameworks to determine whether the frameworks will create an open box or not. ​


  • Square-shaped Polydron frameworks (if not available, cardstock paper can be used) 


  • Facilitate a discussion with students about 2-D and 3-D shapes, their properties, similarities, differences and how they are related.​
  • Lay a framework flat on the ground and allow students to imagine how it will transform into an open box. ​​
  • Carefully fold the sides of the box to show students how the box is created.​​
  • Allow students’ turns to hold, flatten and re-create the box for several minutes.​
  • Show students a different framework and have them imagine how they could fold it into a box (or not).​​
  • Invite students to verbalize their explanations using spatial language to share their predictions of whether an open box can be formed or not.​

Look Fors

  • Can the child articulate the properties of the 2-D and 3-D shapes (e.g. number of sides, number of vertices)?​
  • Can the child articulate the difference between 2-D and 3-D shapes? Can they categorize them?​
  • Can the child clearly articulate with words and gestures how the frames can be folded into boxes?​
  • Does the child use spatial language? ​
  • Observe: gesturing, embodied cognition, and language as students reason about their conclusions.​


  • After children have become familiar with this activity, it can be extended to include different 3-D structures (e.g. pyramid, rectangular prism). ​
  • Eventually, have students create their own framework sets and challenge their classmates.​
  • Show the children a constructed 3D structure and have them create all possible nets.​

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