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Math-Infused 3D Printing: Tessellations and Volume Models with Tinkercad

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYODex

Tuesday, June 25, 10:45 am–12:15 pm
Location: Franklin 8-9, Marriott

Terry VanNoy  
Sometimes the "M" in STEM is a second thought for educators. How can we infuse mathematical applications and principles in our STEM/STEAM programs naturally? Here are two ideas: Learn to use TinkerCad to design tessellations and volume/capacity models.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Participants should have a TinkerCad account so any created designs will be saved online for further exploration and editing. Go to and select "Join Now".
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Project-, problem- and challenge-based learning
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Math, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
Related exhibitors: MakerBot 3D Printers

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The outcome of my session will be that the participants will have two practical and doable examples of math projects that their students can do using 3D design ideas and a 3D printer. These ideas are simple enough that my hope is to inspire more creative thought about the process and allowing students to think creatively and mathematically about tiled designs and problem solving using volume models.
The tools used: tinkercad design techniques, are free and easily accessible for most teachers and students. I'll show step by step how to add other shapes to the design, duplicate them, make one of the pieces into a hole, then group and repeat. The result will be a tessellation tile.
Volume models will be created from simple cubes, then flattened and measured using the Tinkercad rulers. Students will be encouraged to use Google Drawings or paper to sketch their models to meet volume or capacity requirements.


1. 10 minutes: A discussion of the teaching of geometry and how we can get students to understand geometric concepts (hint: visual models and problem solving).
2. 30 minutes: Tessellation Tiles Using Tinkercad
* We'll go to, log in and tinker a new design
* Grabbing a cube block and flattening it to 5mm
* Understanding the ruler tool, manipulating the tile to 40X40
* Adding a cylinder, flattening it to 5mm, duplicating it
* Making one cylinder a hole, then grouping the whole thing
* Duplicating the whole tile, changing color, fitting together
* Trying other designs
* Discussing how to help students understand geometry vocabulary in this process and how tessellations work.
3. 30 minutes: Volume Models with Tinkercad
* Discussion about how volume and capacity ideas are taught in school currently.
* Showing 3D printed models: labeled boxes, combination shapes
* Going to Tinkercad, starting with a cube, manipulating it
* Using the ruler tool to stretch to certain dimensions
* The difference between "solid" boxes and empty boxes
* Walk through of creating an empty box: using a hole slightly smaller than the original box
* Preparing your print model ... considerations of scale
4. 15 minutes: Wrap Up, Q & A, Summary Discussion

Supporting research

This paper,, discusses how technology tools can help students shift from two dimensional to three dimensional thinking, and improving spatial awareness. These skills and concepts can greatly help junior high math students to understand geometric and algebraic ideas. It is a good look at how teachers should be aware of this and try to find tools in their teaching to assist their students to develop these techniques and practice them in their learning.

I appreciate this blog from Kent Haines because it reinforces my belief from many years in the math classroom that children need visual models to learn and reinforce mathematical ideas. This has been a foundation to my teaching, and I am always looking for ways to visually represent even the most abstract concepts. My ISTE presentation and workshop is a practical example of how teachers can use 3D design with Tinkercad to teach and apply geometry and algebra concepts.

Here are a couple more resources which I will share with people at ISTE, among others, that are also relevant:

More [+]


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