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Broadbent Maths - creative primary maths

Points of view - plans and elevations of 3D shapes

Wednesday, 12 January 2022
In our everyday lives we make a wide-ranging use of diagrams, maps and floor-plans which all assume an ability to interpret plans, elevations and aerial views. Giving children the opportunity to explore plans, side elevations and front elevations of 3D shapes, and represent them in different ways, is a useful step towards developing these skills.

I find that interlocking cubes such as Multilink or Centicube are an excellent resource for exploring shapes in this way. Children have the opportunity to make, break and re-make shapes while considering their properties and the best way of representing them.

Try these activities with your class. 


Shape footprints

How many different shapes can be made with 4 cubes that will fit on this shape footprint (shown to the right)? What about 5 cubes?
There are more shapes than you may think, although some shapes will tip-over without support. You can decide whether to include these.
Once a group of children have found all the possible shapes, ask them to work in pairs.
They take turns to ‘explain’ their shape to their partner using only written instructions or drawings so that they can make the shape with cubes. These drawings can be their own invention and may be a little inaccurate - although they should be encouraged to try different methods.

For example, the plan could be numbered to represent the number of cubes.


However, this plan could be a representation of two different possible shapes, as shown on the right.

4 cubes

Plans and elevations

Once children have explored their own recording of shape footprint models, demonstrate the drawings of front and side elevations alongside the plan. Talk about the reasons why these are useful as they show accurate representations of shapes.

Here is an example, using a shape made with 5 cubes:

5 cube


Side elevation

Front elevation


Ten cubes

Children in pairs make a model with 10 interlocking cubes. They then make a card which shows their drawings of the plan, front elevation and side elevation of their shape. They take a photo of their shape to show the answer (this can be put on the back of the card). Once completed, the cards can be gathered together and used as a resource by the class.

Cities of 3D buildings

Here are two puzzles with a number of different solutions to them. Ask the children to find different shapes made with interlocking cubes that match each set of plans and elevations. These are kept and displayed as 'cities' of buildings with the same plans and elevations.


plan 2front 2elevation 2

             Plan                  Front elevation            Side elevation


plan3front 3side 3

             Plan                              Front elevation                       Side elevation

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