Examining Polyhedrons Through an Isometric Lens

By Stacey Burt on February 24, 2012
  • Grades: 6–8

Analyzing the properties and characteristics of polyhedrons can be challenging even for the most discriminating mathematician. Using isometric dot paper to ease into the world of polyhedrons is a good way to start.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Web site Illuminations is invaluable to me. On their site is a unit on cubes and isometric drawings. The unit includes a virtual drawing tool and a printable piece of isometric dot paper. When I'm beginning to teach surface area, faces, edges, and volume (or reviewing — I am teaching both 5th and 6th grade math this year), I always start by considering and constructing polyhedrons on an isometric grid. For the students that haven’t quite developed that sense of spatial reasoning, this can prove a bit difficult. That is why I am so drawn to the interactive drawing tool: there's no wasted paper and there are limitless practice opportunities.

I usually kick off the unit by explaining that many of the computer games and graphics they are accustomed to were created on an isometric grid. This usually gets their attention. Examples of graphics created in the 1980s and 1990s illustrates to students the advancements we've seen in technology and computer-generated graphics.

Working with isometric perspective allows students to wrap their heads around the concepts of volume, edges, and surface area. By relating it to real-world applications, like computer graphics, the concept becomes even clearer. So while you're enjoying the trip down memory lane looking at “old school” graphics, rest assured that it all started through an isometric lens.

Best—
Stacey

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