Design Blocks

Students rotate and rearrange sixteen colored cubes to recreate a variety of geometric designs.

Photo of teaching the Design Blocks activitySherry Urban's 3rd grade class at Inland Leaders Charter School in Yucaipa, California, races to complete a design before the three-minute timer goes off.


  1. Explain to your students that they must use only the blocks from their own box. Tell them each box has been labeled with a number, and every block in the box has that same number on it, to help them keep all their blocks together. (If the blocks get mixed up, they won’t be able to complete their designs.)
  2. Have them look at the designs shown on the box lid (or cards, if included), and choose one to copy.
  3. After students take the blocks out of the box, they can use the box bottom as a tray to hold the blocks as they position them.
  4. As they work on copying their design, help students who are having a difficult time finding the correct placement of the blocks by asking questions such as,
    • “What colors do you see on the outside of the square in the picture?”
    • “How can you turn this block around (rotate it) to make it match the picture?”
  5. Have students copy as many of the designs as time allows.

Extension activities, tips, common errors and challenges, information about standards addressed, and additional resources are all available in the downloadable PDF version of this activity.

Spatial Thinking

Spatial Visualization

Object Rotation

Thinking Concepts

Pattern Recognition



2D and 3D Shapes

Composite Shapes