How to Make Paper Models of Polyhedrons

Paper polyhedron models help geometry students understand polygons and three dimensions.

A polyhedron is a three-dimensional shape with polygons for sides or faces. Making a polyhedron model from paper or cardstock helps students of geometry understand polygons and polyhedrons alike. In the process, an interesting decoration or conversation piece will be created. This project is good for geometry students and younger children as well.

Find a pattern for your polyhedron. Patterns consist of a series of polygons such as squares, triangles or rectangles as well as other shapes connected to one another in a series. Many patterns are available online or in the library. Alternatively, you can make your own pattern. This entails a knowledge of three-dimensional geometry and some advanced spatial skills, plus some specialized tools such as a straight edge, a protractor, a compass and graph paper.

Print out your pattern from the computer or draw it onto paper yourself according to instructions and dimensions described by the pattern.

Cut out your pattern. Cut only outside lines. Other lines between polygons will be for folding. Some patterns will have tabs to cut out that will be used later in assembling the polyhedron. Carefully cut around these tabs.

Assemble the polyhedron according to instructions provided with the pattern. You will fold it along lines between polygons. The the cut edges should line up with one another to form a three-dimensional shape with the polygons for sides. Tape the edges together on the outside to secure the polyhedron in place. For patterns with tabs, slide the tabs under the adjacent polygons and tape or glue them in place. This method gives the polyhedron a more finished look.

  • Use cardstock to print your patterns. It will help the polyhedron keep its shape. Use acid-free cardstock so that the colors do not fade.
  • If desired, you can color the polyhedral faces of the design with pencils or paint before cutting it out. Another way to have a colored polyhedron is to use colored paper.
  • Make mobiles out of the polyhedrons to hang them from the ceiling for display.

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.