The Birthday Party

In this activity, students are going to a birthday party with Finley! As they fold presents with Finley, they will get to see how 2D nets can be turned into 3D shapes. Students are encouraged to stand up and walk around to see different faces of the shape.

Why use the Birthday Party activity?

Traditionally, introducing 2D nets and 3D shapes to a math class is often done by one of the following methods:

  1. Teachers buy paper and cut it beforehand, and hand out those materials and tools to students so everyone can learn how 2D shapes are turned into 3D shapes.
  2. Teachers show how to turn 2D shapes into 3D shapes in front of everyone.
  3. Teachers and students imagine how 3D shapes are made and visualize it in their heads.

In order to let students “see math” and “do math” instead of imagining math, we use AR technology to visualize shapes and implement folding mechanisms making it more realistic. Our activity also gives a way to show this concept without the setup and cleanup of a paper cutting activity. 

Also, our activity has a story embedded. Students can be more interested in the activity in order to go to the birthday party or help Finley than just being asked to do the handcrafted activity.

What is in the Folding Activity?

In this activity, Finley is inviting your student to a birthday party, but needs your student’s help to make a birthday card and wrap birthday presents. The activity has 4 phases, gradually leading students to learn more about nets and three-dimensional shapes.

  1.  Tutorial phase. This teaches the student how to do our Augemented Reality(AR) folding mechanic by asking them to fold a birthday card. To fold the card, they will follow our instructional animation to press and drag on one side of the card

Tutorial phase

2. Fold the given net into a cube, to wrap the roller skates. Students will fold each face of the shape up off the floor or surface by pressing and dragging it off the ground, and finally fold it such that all edges are touching. The base of the cube- the one face that does not need to be manipulated- is indicated by the position of the roller skates. With each face folded, they will hear a sound effect, and when all faces are folded, they will see a sparkle effect and hear lines from Finley.

Math Concepts: A cube has six faces, the net of the cube can be folded face by face, all edges must be touching in a cube.

Math Question, before folding a cube: What shape do you think this will make? How do you know?

Math Question, after folding a cube: Were you surprised when the flat piece folded into a cube? Why or why not?

Fold the given net into a cube

  1. Fold one of several nets into a cube. There are three new nets, all in different configurations which students may not have seen before. One of the three nets does not form a cube, because the faces overlap. If the student folds this net, Finley explains that even though it has six faces, not all nets with six faces form a cube. 

Math concepts: different configurations of a cube net, physically impossible cube nets.

Math Question, before trying to fold these nets: Which one do you think will form a cube?

Math Question, after trying to fold these nets: Why do you think those two nets worked, but the third one didn’t work?

Fold one of several nets into a cube

  1. More variation is offered, with different gifts and different gift boxes. A square pyramid, a rectangular prism, and a hexagonal prism can be folded from nets in this phase. With each shape made, Finley connects the shape made to what kind of present might work with that box. Students can tap Finley to skip ahead to the birthday party.

Math concepts: introduction to the net of a square pyramid, a rectangular prism, and a hexagonal prism. Facts about each shape: the base of a square pyramid is a square; a rectangular prism is similar to a cube with at least one longer dimension, a hexagonal prism has more sides on its base, making it rounder than a cube. 

Math question, before folding these shapes: What shape do you think these will be when they’re folded? Why do you think so?

Math question, after folding these shapes: Was your prediction right? What was something that surprised you about these shapes?


  1.  Birthday Party! This is a non-interactive cutscene showing Finley skating into a party with a group of chinchillas. 

Birthday Party

What’s Not in the activity?

The Birthday Party focuses primarily on the net of a cube, only briefly touching on nets of other shapes. Additionally, only three of the eleven mathematically possible cube nets are included. This is by design, both to keep our activity short to maintain attention, and because we suggest thinking through other possible cube nets as a discussion after the activity. 

Additionally, the Birthday Party only presents one net for each of three non-cube shapes. There are many other nets of a square pyramid, rectangular prism, and hexagonal prism, just as there are many shapes not covered. 

Suggested Classroom Integration

Activities can be used to introduce a topic, to get a conversation started about it.  Teachers can use this folding activity before introducing nets of 3D shapes, or after, to reinforce the concept with play.  Regardless of how much the students already know about the nets of 3D shapes, we suggest opening a discussion about the concept after students play with our activity.

Suggested discussion questions:

  • What kind of presents might go in a cube-shaped box? What about the other shapes you saw in the activity? What about shapes like a cylinder or cone?
  • What kind of shape might make a good gift box for a pogo stick? What about a soccer ball? Or a clock? (There are many different gift possibilities- ones with unusual dimensions might lead to better answers.)
  • How do you know how many faces a shape has after you fold it? What about before you fold it?
  • What are some differences between a cube and a rectangular prism? A cube and a square pyramid? A cube and a hexagonal prism?
  • How would Finley figure out how much wrapping paper to use? What would they have to measure?
  • Can you think of more ways to make the net of a cube? What do you notice all the nets of a cube have in common?
  • How much space do you think is inside the gift box? How would you find out?

All the possible shapes for cube

Helpful Tips for the Birthday Party

If a student is having trouble folding one side of a shape, encourage them to move around in space to see all sides. As they move the camera around, Finley will always turn to face them, but the nets and shapes will stay in place. 

If a student is having trouble with folding in general, they may not be dragging far enough on the screen for the tablet to register their input. Encourage them to drag with larger motions. 

If a student’s finger goes in front of the camera, the AR will start to lag and not function properly. It may be best to use a case that has handles or a grip, so the student’s hands are not tempted to stray toward the camera.