What’s the difference between a 2D movie and a 3D movie? 3D movies are much more immersive. Just put on the 3D glasses, and voila! The scenes in 3D movies suddenly appear to be real because they have depth—an extra dimension! That’s the key difference between 2D and 3D shapes.

Most schools in the United States don’t teach 3D shapes until grade six. But don’t you think this should be learned in schools at an earlier grade? Before you read on, take a look at the objects around you. What shapes do you commonly see in your surroundings? You can see lines and two-dimensional shapes, right? If you look carefully, you will notice that these lines and two-dimensional shapes are parts of some three-dimensional object.

Would you classify a sheet of paper as a 2D or a 3D object? It’s a common misconception that a sheet of paper is a two-dimensional object. But the fact that we can turn it around itself means that it is three-dimensional. In fact, we live in a three-dimensional world. Hence, it makes sense to learn about the three-dimensionality of the world around us at a young age.

What are 3D Shapes?

Just like the name suggests, 3D shapes, or three-dimensional shapes, are solid shapes that have three dimensions: length, width, and depth. In some cases, we use height instead of depth. To understand what 3D shapes are, we need to understand shapes with lower dimensions.

We know that a point doesn’t have any length, width, or depth. Therefore, it has zero dimensions. Lines are formed by a group of points. Lines have length; hence, they are one-dimensional. Shapes like triangles, rectangles, squares, pentagons, circles, and so on are made up of lines. Since these shapes are made from a combination of 1D lines, they have two dimensions. Such shapes are called 2D shapes.

Similarly, the faces of 3D shapes are made up of 2D shapes; hence, they have three dimensions. In other words, the shapes around you, the ones you can pick, touch, and rotate, have three dimensions.1

Examples of 3D Shapes

  • Pyramid: It is a solid shape with a polygonal (closed shape having n number of sides) base with triangular faces.
  • Cube: A 3D shape with six square faces.
  • Cuboid: A 3D shape with six rectangular faces.
  • Prism: A solid shape with identical polygons at their ends and flat parallelograms on their sides. Different types of 3D models of prisms are given below.
  • Sphere: A round 3D shape whose points on the surface are equidistant from the center.
  • Cone: A solid shape having a circular base and a single vertex.
  • Cylinder: A solid shape with two circular ends connected by a curved surface.

All of these 3D shapes are commonly found around us!

Applications of 3D Shapes

As we already know, we live in a three-dimensional world. That means everything around us has something to do with 3D concepts in math. Here are a few applications of 3D shapes:3,4

  • Painting a portrait on a flat sheet of paper requires artists to understand 3D shapes and their spatial properties.
  • 3D modeling is extremely important in architecture; the first step in planning necessitates an understanding of 3D concepts.
  • Manufacturing, aerospace, automobiles, civil engineering, and other fields rely on 3D models created with 3D software. And in order to create such software, computer engineers must understand 3D concepts.
  • Pilots and ship captains require good spatial awareness and knowledge in 3D math concepts in order to navigate properly.
  • Language usage while speaking necessitates good spatial awareness. Take a look at the following sentences:
  • I discarded the used water bottles in the trash can.
  • She put the coins in her piggy bank.
  • I kept my wallet on the table.
  • He threw the ball behind the tree.
  • The ball went under the bus.

In all these cases, good spatial awareness is required to convey the right message.

A Few Benefits of Learning 3D Shapes at a Young Age:

  • Improves Motor Skills: Playing and learning with three-dimensional objects improves motor skills and physical awareness. A game as simple as Jenga can be won if one has a good understanding of 3D shapes.
  • Boosts Creativity: Learning 3D shapes can aid artistic development in children. They can make better paintings and craft items with some knowledge of 3D shapes.
  • Improves Visual Skills: A child with knowledge of 3D can form mental images of 3D shapes from multiple perspectives, also known as projections. This helps them think from multiple angles. For example, children can understand the difference between a cone and a circle—a cone looks like a circle when viewed from its base but looks different from other angles.
  • Teaches Basics of Geometry: Learning 3D shapes at a young age helps children familiarize themselves with geometry—a branch of math that some of them find  challenging to learn.2

Future of 3D Technology

3D printing is the future of 3D technology. Just like how our printer prints out  information in 2D on sheets of paper, a 3D printer can print out three-dimensional objects. Yes, it is such an awesome technology that people are making space rockets using it! It is safe to say that 3D printing is the future of research and development (R&D), manufacturing, medicine, construction, and many other things.

The process of making basic physical models of projects is known as prototyping. Until recently, prototyping in R&D and manufacturing was a difficult task. This is because the process of creating prototypes was difficult and costly. But 3D printing technology has made this more accessible and affordable for us. If you have an idea, you can simply print it out using a 3D printer and some simple computer software. Since it has become more affordable and accessible, we can now come up with even more creative and innovative solutions.

3D printing isn’t just cool; it’s also simple to learn. Yes, even for children! Modern computer applications are so easy to use that we can create 3D models of objects using a 3D printer within minutes. Isn’t that amazing?

It is highly desirable to use 3D printing technology in education because it allows children to see their designs come to life and interact in novel ways with the finished product. As a result, they feel empowered to plan, lead, and carry out their own processes, which benefits them both academically and personally. 

Why not give your child the opportunity to learn about 3D printing and see what amazing things they can create? Unsure of where to start but interested in learning more about 3D shapes and concepts? Explore BYJU’s FutureSchool blog!


1. Three-Dimensional Shapes | SkillsYouNeed. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.skillsyouneed.com/num/3d-shapes.html  

2. The Importance of Learning Shapes | Fuddy Duddy. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.fuddyduddy.ie/blogs/news/the-importance-of-learning-shapes   

3. What is 3D Modeling? | How 3D Modeling is Used Today. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.takeoffpros.com/2020/04/27/guide-to-3d-modeling/ 

4. 3D Modeling: The Basics – Easy Beginner’s Guide | All3DP. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://all3dp.com/2/3d-modeling-basics-simply-explained/ 

5. What are 3D Shapes? | Complex 3D Shapes. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.twinkl.co.in/teaching-wiki/3d-shapes 

About the Author

More than just Coding and Math! Our proprietary, activity-based curriculum with live, real-time instruction facilitates: Problem Solving. Creative Thinking. Grit. Confidence. Communication