Activity Introduction

Quick summary: This is a STEAM lesson, which adds the Arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). To find out more about STEAM and STEM click here. In this lesson, students connect mathematical knowledge with Visual Arts by creating models of three dimensional shapes using straws and string (geometric mobiles). The lesson explores features of three-dimensional shapes, including faces, edges, corners (vertices) and surfaces. It further extends into an exploration of the two-dimensional shapes that form each face, engaging students in an exploration of how area of a two-dimensional shape can be approximated using formal units. In development and analysis of these designs, students will explore and discuss the art element of line, reflecting on its prominence in their design and the types of lines that are present.

Learning intentions: Students can…

  • … understand the key features of three dimensional shapes.
  • … calculate approximate area of a two dimensional shape using formal units.
  • … understand art elements and principles.

21st century skills: 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 3 Mathematics

  • Make models of three-dimensional objects and describe key features (ACMMG063).
  • Recall addition facts for single-digit numbers and related subtraction facts to develop increasingly efficient mental strategies for computation (ACMNA055).
  • Model and represent unit fractions including 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, 1/5 and their multiples to a complete whole (ACMNA058).

Year 4 Mathematics

  • Compare the areas of regular and irregular shapes by informal means (ACMMG087).
  • Count by quarters halves and thirds, including with mixed numerals. Locate and represent these fractions on a number line (ACMNA078).

Year 3 and 4 Visual Arts

  • Use materials, techniques and processes to explore visual conventions when making artworks (ACAVAM111).
  • Present artworks and describe how they have used visual conventions to represent their ideas (ACAVAM112).

Year 3 and 4 Design and Technologies

  • Generate, develop, and communicate design ideas and decisions using appropriate technical terms and graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP015).
  • Plan a sequence of production steps when making designed solutions individually and collaboratively (ACTDEP018).

Syllabus outcomes: MA2‑1WM, MA2‑2WM, MA2‑3WM, MA2‑5NA, MA2‑7NA, MA2-10MG, MA2-14MG, VAS2.1, VAS2.2, ST2-5WT.

General capabilities:  Literacy, Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking.

Relevant parts of Year 3 Mathematics Achievement Standards: By the end of Year 3, students recognise the connection between addition and subtraction and solve problems using efficient strategies for multiplication. They model and represent unit fractions. They recall addition and multiplication facts for single-digit numbers. Students use metric units for length, mass and capacity. Students make models of three-dimensional objects.

Relevant parts of Year 4 Mathematics Achievement Standards: By the end of Year 4 students recognise common equivalent fractions in familiar contexts and make connections between fraction and decimal notations up to two decimal places. Students compare areas of regular and irregular shapes using informal units. Students create symmetrical shapes and patterns.

Relevant parts of Year 3 and 4 Visual Arts Achievement Standards: Students describe and discuss similarities and differences between artworks they make and those to which they respond. They discuss how they and others organise the elements and processes in artworks.
Students collaborate to plan and make artworks that communicate ideas.

Relevant parts of Year 3 and 4 Design and Technologies Achievement Standards: Students generate and record design ideas for an audience using technical terms and graphical and non-graphical representation techniques including algorithms. They plan a sequence of steps (algorithms) to create solutions, including visual programs.

Topic: Art & Craft.

Unit of work: Learning Through Art & Craft – Primary.

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – the level of support required will depend on a number of factors, including student comfort with construction and the complexity of the shapes that students decide to create.

Resources required: 

Keywords: Shape, space, three dimensional, geometry, area, measurement, art elements, line.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... understand the key features of three-dimensional shapes.
  • ... calculate the approximate area of a two-dimensional shape using formal units.
  • ... understand art elements and principles.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... explain what a three-dimensional shape is in their own words.
  • ... identify faces, surfaces, edges and vertices (corners) of a three-dimensional shape.
  • ... explain what area is.
  • ... use square centimetres to find an approximate measure of area.
  • ... identify the types of lines in their model.
  • ... discuss strategies to create balance in their mobiles.

Teacher content information:

Art and Mathematics

Art and mathematics are often viewed as very separate disciplines, with art being more of a creative pursuit and mathematics focusing on logic and reasoning. These two areas, however, have many shared concepts. Pattern is a concept relevant to both mathematics and art, just as shape, l

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Student Worksheet

Shape Analysis Task

Your task is to create a three-dimensional shape to be placed onto a geometric mobile in your class. You may use straws, twine and scissors to create your design.

Creating your Design 

A design sketch is to be completed before you make your shape.

Your design sketch must show:

  • What shape you are making.
  • What length each edge will be.
  • What colour straws you will use.
  • What order you will connect the straws in.
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