Copy Cats

Years K - 6


Giving step by step building instructions to a partner to recreate a 3D object from linking cubes is a well known activity. Copy Cats uses the same principles in a two dimensional situation that cries out for a grid reference system. Children soon understand this need and begin to apply a form of it themselves. This gives the teacher an opportunity for discussion and, if necessary, refinement of their approach. Suitable for threading.


  • 1 Poly Plug per person


Sally Oakley & Gill Brazendale, East Devonport Primary School, with help from Lyndy Bowden, Christine Thorpe, Jane Cotton, Peta Cannamelo
Back To Back Poly Plugs
How come they didn't turn out the same?



  1. Two people sit back to back.
  2. Person A makes a pattern or shape in the red board with the yellow/blue plugs.
  3. Person A gives Person B instructions so the shape is reconstructed on Person B's board.


  • Free exploration - children usually discover
    • the need for a starting point to 'measure' from
    • that the board should not be rotated during the game
  • Limiting the number of plugs
  • Using up, down, left, right
  • Using north, south, east, west
  • Using Cartesian co-ordinates (x, y)


  • 1:1 correspondence
  • language of space, position & order
  • mapping skills - informal
  • mathematical conversation
  • mathematics & literacy partnership
  • measurement, concept of
  • spatial perception
  • transformations (rotations, reflections, flips)
Apart from content listed opposite, some of the additional skills involved are listening, communicating, questioning, co-operating, sequencing, recording and problem solving.


  • This activity is a grid-based version of Task 60, Back To Back Building.
  • Task 114, Where Is The Rectangle? extends learning related to the co-ordinate plane.
  • The NRICH web site has a neat, software-based complement to this task which they call Poly Plug Rectangle. The Teachers' Notes are an extensive 'must read' when exploring this activity. They also include video from UK classrooms of children exploring the activity with Poly Plug.

Calculating Changes ... is a division of ... Mathematics Centre