Block Calendar

by devansic, published

Block Calendar by devansic Aug 1, 2016

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Create a block calendar by folding a hinged box with embossed or extruded numbers. This project includes month tags and a holder that keeps them all together. These small block calendars can be used to reinforce months, dates, and order of numbers for an early elementary #MathProject.

Prior to folding the blocks, older students can gain experience working with geometric nets, surface area, and volume. To reinforce #ForeignLanguage skills, I’ve included a set of #French month tags and #Spanish month tags.

For a beginning 3D modeling and #EngineeringProject, I’ve added blanks of the calendar cube, the month tags, and the insert that is used on the extruded calendar so that you or your students can add personalized content with #TinkerCAD.

Print Settings

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There are two different ways to do the calendars: you can extrude the numbers and letters so they stick out (extruded), or you can engrave them so they are recessed (relief) into the block and tags. Because the extrusion makes parts bigger, there are two different sizes of bases depending on what you decide to do with your calendar. Make sure you print the right base for the blocks that you intend to use. I’ve also included an insert for the extruded calendar for the blocks to rest on - it helps eliminate the instability of resting on extruded letters.

Printing a set of cubes with standard settings on the #MakerBot will take about six hours. One full year of month tags will also take about 6 hours. The bases take about two to two and a half hours, depending on relief vs. extruded.


When the blocks are done printing, they will be laying flat and ready to be folded into a cube, once you’ve removed the raft. When you are ready to glue them so they make a solid block, plain white glue is sufficient to bond the sides. Put some weight on the top of them while they dry so that the edges have a good bond and tight finish.

Those are the only locations that need glue. Be prepared to wipe, it does squeeze out under pressure.

Place something on top of your blocks while they are drying to help them form solid bonds

How I Designed This

The calendar cubes are based on a remix of the HingeBox by profhandkd. I took his box into #TinkerCAD, removed the lock tab and insert and flipped it over so that the bottom surface would fold inside. I used #OnShape to create the calendar bases and month tags. If you want to expand upon the design of the holder and tags, or do more with it, you can access those models here.


Overview and Background

Two number cubes are used to represent the 31 days of the year, with tags for each month below. Each day, students can index the cubes to reflect the date while changing the tags monthly. These small, hands-on calendars give students the opportunity to physically manipulate numbers and months as they get familiar with counting, ordering numbers, ordering months and learning the vocabulary. In addition to the primary goals of learning the calendar, the blocks can be used as manipulatives for math explorations ranging from geometry to probability.


After working with this project, students will be able to put the months in order, count from 1 to 31, and know the names of the months. Older students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of probability; geometric nets, surface area and volume calculations; and/or 3D Modeling skills.


English Learners: all ages
Calendar Skills: K-2
Math - Algebra, Geometry, Statistics: 4th-12th grade
Foreign Languages: all ages


Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size.

Identify shapes as two-dimensional (lying in a plane, "flat") or three-dimensional (“solid").

Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths by packing it with unit cubes of the appropriate unit fraction edge lengths, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths of the prism. Apply the formulas V = l w h and V = b h to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with fractional edge lengths in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.

Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.

Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric figures, including computing actual lengths and areas from a scale drawing and reproducing a scale drawing at a different scale.

Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, volume and surface area of two- and three-dimensional objects composed of triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, cubes, and right prisms.

Identify the shapes of two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects, and identify three-dimensional objects generated by rotations of two-dimensional objects.

(+) Calculate the expected value of a random variable; interpret it as the mean of the probability distribution.

(+) Use probabilities to make fair decisions (e.g., drawing by lots, using a random number generator).

Lesson Plan and Activity

The Calendars and their components can take a long time to print. For languages, number concepts, and vocabulary, they can be kept on the students’ desks and referred to throughout the year as lessons and reinforcements. In using them to develop skills in geometry and statistics, they can be introduced and referred to throughout the unit, with about a one-hour initial lesson on exploring and measuring the geometric nets before gluing them into the cube shape. If you are allowing students to design their own cubes and/or insert for the extruded set, allow up to five hours for students to learn TinkerCAD and manipulate the tools to get their desired result.

Calendar and Language Skills: For students learning either their first or second language, this project provides a space-efficient visual reminder of the day and month but also offers handy manipulatives for shuffling and sorting the months into order, into seasons, or (if you print more than one language) to group into matching pairs. You could have one of these for each of your students to keep on their desks for regular practice, or just have a couple available for those students that you know need differentiated instruction.

Math Skills: Prior to folding and gluing the cubes, students can explore the Geometric Net that will eventually become the calendar cube. This can be a good introductory project for a unit on Surface Area and Volume. Using measuring skills, students can be asked to determine the dimensions of the net in order to calculate the surface area. They can also be asked to determine the volume of the final cube and they can be asked to determine what the inside volume would be by measuring the thickness of the walls of the cube. As a follow-up activity, Khan Academy has a short series of interactive lessons for students to explore other shapes as well.

The actual day of the month can be used in Math as well. For younger students, indexing from one day to the next will help develop counting skills. For older students, to reinforce the order of operations, a bell-ringer activity for math could be to develop an expression (with at least 2, 3, or 4 different operations, depending on your students’ skill levels) that is equal to the day of the month.

Enrichment activities in Math can also be centered around the Calendar Cubes. Advanced students could be asked to determine how many different combinations of numbers can be displayed by the pair of number cubes. Because the cubes aren’t identical, statistics students could be asked to determine the probability of rolling specified values with their calendar cubes. For example, with the two cubes, what is the probability of rolling a 12?

Finally, for students that are interested in 3D modeling or engineering, ask them to design their own calendar set using the blanks provided in this project. Allow them to determine which numbers should be on which cube or invite them to develop their own system for designating the day and month - perhaps a code, mathematical constants, chemical symbols, or braille will intrigue them. With the extruded set, the insert offers an opportunity for students to use #TinkerCAD to personalize their calendars. Importing an SVG allows for a silhouette to be added to the back of the insert - instructions for doing so are below.

Handouts and Assets

Months of the year worksheet
A variety of geometric nets
This interactive tool for manipulating 3D shapes can help students who need more time on vertices, edges, and faces.
Paper models for a variety of polyhedra, if you’ve got a student who is really excited about folding something to get a 3D structure.


TinkerCAD Instructions

To personalize your cubes or add something to the insert for the extruded calendar set, TinkerCAD is a pretty intuitive tool. First, you need to have an account and start a new drawing. Below, I will show you how to import the blank block and add features to it.

If you have a drawing that you wish to add to the insert, you need to have it in SVG format. A free SVG converter is available at this website. For the French insert, I used a drawing that I purchased at 123RF, with this copyright. I uploaded it to the converter, which returns an SVG download. To insert the SVG into your drawing, you follow the same steps as you would to insert an STL. You would also insert the blank insert file, which you would have to rotate 90 degrees and match up to the bottom of your drawing prior to creating a "group" for printing.

To Insert a file into your TinkerCAD drawing, click on the "Insert" heading on the right hand menu.

Search for your file and make sure the scale is correct. With the SVG, it will also ask you what size and thickness you want for the item you are importing - it's kind of like a cookie cutter. It gives you the shape and you need to tell it how big and how thick.

The Calendar Blocks are currently sized at 40 mm. Don't change these settings or your tabs and bases won't fit.

To add numbers to your cubes, access the numbers blocks by selecting the "1" at the top right of your screen.

Once you've added the numbers to the workspace, you can change the size by clicking on the corners and dragging to the size you want. For the blocks that are already made, I kept the numbers at a height of about 22 mm.

The numbers have to be higher than the surface of the cube. To change their elevation, you select the black cone on top of the number and drag it upwards. To change the thickness of the numbers, you click on the white square in the center of the number and drag it up or down.

Place your numbers in the locations that you want on the faces of the cubes. If you want the numbers to stick out, select the "color" box on the inspector and they will stay solid and be extruded from the surface. If you want them to be inset, or embossed, select the "hide" box and the number will be cut away from the surface.

Once all your features are added to the cube, you need to join everything to make one 3D model. Select all objects on your workspace and click on the "Group" icon towards the middle right of the top menu bar.

To print, select the "Design" drop down menu from the upper left and drag down to "Download for 3D Printing."

The MakerBot uses STL files to print. Clicking on the STL box will create a download with the name of your file. You can then import that into MakerBot Desktop and print with standard settings.

Rubric and Assessment

In language development, the teacher can assess whether the student has learned the correct ordering of the months or the correct translation between languages through various quizzes and worksheets.

In math, the teacher can ask the students to draw the finished cube as well as its net for a demonstration of understanding. They can be given a paper print out of another net and asked to predict what it might fold up to become, or they can be given a paper print of another cube and asked to determine the volume and surface area of that hypothetical cube.


Foreign or Second Languages:

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Thank you! Your hinge is awesome!