Trying to picture 3D shapes in your head and ‘spin’ them round for a different view is hard enough for many people. Which is why asking pupils to visualise 3D coordinates from a 2D representation, let alone perform any calculations from them, is even less straightforward.
Realising this, my colleague thought about ways she could provide pupils to hold and feel the coordinates. Models from cocktail sticks, string, straws and wire were all thought of but in the end Ms Llewellyn found some spare lengths of wood in the workshop and made a stash of x-y-z axes (…tri-axes?) It turns out they’re pesky things to put together. I tried providing an extra pair of hands and assisting with fixing the lengths together. We had a go with nails and a hammer but they split the wood. Then we tried a stapler but we could never get the third leg to stay in place. PVA glue just wouldn’t dry quick enough. So in the end, a hasty duct tape lash was enough to secure the rods in place.
It was completely worth it – there were enough for every pair of pupils to work with one and the whole range of ability levels were able to access a set of far more demanding questions than would otherwise have been possible. They were experimenting by drawing scales along the axes and dangling cubes in the 3D space created between them.
The tri-axes were such a simple resource to put together – doubtless we’re not the first to ever make them – and now we have something that we can bring out for lessons on 3D Pythagoras and trigonometry and even for something more straightforward like volume of cuboids and cubes. And it was far more fun making them and seeing them being used than it was putting together another worksheet. Well done Ms Llewellyn.