At Sparx, we’ve recently created some new content covering nets of 3D shapes. We thought we’d give a bit of an insight into our thought processes when designing this important topic!

For many students encountering questions on nets, the visual nature of the topic can provide a different kind of challenge to other areas of maths. The challenge we faced in the Sparx Content Design Team was to work out how we could best enable students to develop this visual intuition online at home, to consolidate classroom learning. This meant a new style of support video.

We started off by thinking about nets of cubes. The easiest type of video to create would have been to show all 11 nets and suggest that students memorise them. However, this approach would have been detrimental to students’ long-term understanding for a few reasons:

  • The fundamental and more widely applicable skill we wanted to test in this topic was the ability to mentally manipulate 3D objects, which this method wouldn’t help develop
  • This method wouldn’t be applicable to questions involving shapes other than cubes
  • It would have been simple for students to bypass the key working and copy from the video

Having ruled out this method, the challenge we faced was presenting a method that students could replicate in their own working which still developed their spatial intuition. We settled on an approach combining a step-by-step animation of a net folding up (to help students visualise the folding process) with a more systematic method of labelling the net’s faces with where they end up. We also limited the amount of text on the screen to avoid the need for students to process different streams of information.

Here is one of the 36 videos we made to cover this topic

Once students have developed this intuition using simple nets, we build upon this in our objectives by using questions testing non-standard nets, as well as covering shapes that aren’t nets.


We end with some fun and challenging problem-solving questions which encourage higher-level thinking. 



The topic “Nets of 3D shapes” is now available for KS3, GCSE and IGCSE.

This piece was written by Peter Hill and Chris Williamson both content writers at Sparx Maths.