Box or Not?

Primary (Age 5 – 9)

Curriculum Goal

Primary: 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 2D to a 3D structure.
  • Children look at pre-arranged square frameworks to determine whether the frameworks will create an open box or not.

Part of our spatial toolkit...


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


  • Facilitate a discussion with students about 2D and 3D 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 2D and 3D shapes (e.g. number of sides, number of vertices)?
  • Can the child articulate the difference between 2D and 3D 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 3D 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.

Related Lessons

A possible extension, students transform 3D figures into 2D drawings.

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