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Have you ever heard of platonic solids? This term may not be familiar to you, but I am sure you will recognize these 3-d geometric shapes! Today I am going to show you how to make some platonic solids with straws and pipe cleaners. They are tons of fun to make and play with after they are made. See also my printable 3-d paper shapes!
What Are Platonic Solids?
Platonic solids are three dimensional shapes with all of the sides and angles being equal in shape and size to each other. There are five shapes that meet these standards: tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. The name platonic comes from Plato who studied them and wrote about them in 360 B.C. Euclid also wrote about the platonic solids in his book Elements.
In the late 1500’s a German astronomer named Johannes Kepler experimented with platonic solids and discovered that when these shapes were nested inside of each other, they corresponded to the sizes and distances of the six known planets that orbited the sun. Pretty cool, right?!
I am going to show you how to make three of the platonic solids, the tetrahedron, the cube and the dodecahedron. Learn how to make these three-dimensional geometric shapes using straws and pipe cleaners.
Math Topics Involved: 3-D Shapes, measurement, geometry
Supplies to Make the Platonic Solids:
Cut all of your straws in half. To make the first shape, a triangular pyramid or a tetrahedron, you will need 6 straw halves and 3-4 pipe cleaners. Begin by making a triangle.
Thread the pipe cleaner through three straw pieces. Twist them together at the top point.
At each point of the triangle attach another straw piece. When you run out of pipe cleaner, just twist another one to the end of the last one. Connect the next three pieces at the top to make the tetrahedron.
Next, make the cube in the same fashion. Make a square first, then attach a piece going upward at each corner.
Lastly make a dodecahedron in the same manner. Start with a pentagon, then from each angle, add another pipe cleaner and straw to build upward.
These can be places inside of each other and nested. You could even hang them all together with a string.