Shapes – Definition, Types, FAQs, Practice Problems, Examples

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    Math is a comprehensive subject that comprises numerous topics, and one of them is shapes. Shapes are the base of math as almost every object in the world has a shape or a combination of different shapes. As early as before joining kindergartens, kids can be able to recognize and notice different types of shapes in the surrounding. The only thing is that they may not have a deeper understanding of shapes, their names, and types in comparison to elementary and highschool kids.

    Shapes are like the parent roots of other major topics in math like volume, perimeter, length, and geometry. To get the volume or perimeter of an object you need to have basic knowledge on shapes to determine their type and the required formula.

    Shape Definition

    A shape is a boundary or outline of an object or the physical appearance of anything. It is basically any surface we see regardless of its size or color. Everything in the surrounding consists of a specific type of shapes. Take an example of a pizza: as a whole, pizza is a circle, but once you dig in, you get pieces which are triangles. Buildings, toys, and cars – all have a certain shape representing them. There are numerous types and dimensions used to classify different shapes. Thus, a lot of people may be confused by shape and figure definition. Kids should remember that figures are geometric shapes that are combinations of lines, points, or planes that form a closed boundary. 


    Different Types of Shapes

    There are four basic types of shapes as discussed below:


    A circle is an enclosed two-dimensional shape in which the set of all the focal points in the plane is equidistant from the center point. If a line is drawn across the circles through the center, that line will form the line of reflection symmetry of the circle. The examples of objects that are circles are bangles, coins, wheels, some buttons, hula hoops, some plates, rings, discs, and coins among others.                            


    This is an enclosed two dimensional figure that is four-sided where two opposite parallel sides are equal in length and all its interior angles meet at a right angle. It has four vertices and four edges.                                 


    Squares are similar to rectangles, but all its four sides are equal in length. All the internal angles are equal at the vertices and meet at 90 degrees. It is an enclosed four-sided polygon that is closed.                                     


    A triangle is a three-sided polygon with three vertices and three edges. There are different types of triangles like isosceles, acute angle, obtuse angle, equilateral, scalene, and right angle triangle among others. These types of triangles are differentiated by the size of their angles and the length of the sides. Regardless of the size of the internal angles, their sum always adds up to 180 degrees.

    Before shapes are classified into further separate structures, the basis of each structure is first determined by whether the shape is open or closed.

    Open Shapes

    Open shapes are figures which are not continuous and are made up of line segments or curves which do not meet. They are figures that start and end at different points and cannot be traced back to the starting point in a straight path. To go back to the starting point, you need to go back through the same path back from the end point. In simple language, they are incomplete shapes. Some examples are:

    • Letters C,U,M,W N 
    • Zigzag
    • A straight line 
    • A curved shape

    Closed Shapes

    Closed shapes are figures with the same starting and ending point. It is easy to trace the shape’s path back to its starting point as they start and end at the same pont. Closed shapes do not have an end point like open shapes. The main types of closed shapes include polygons, circles, and ellipses.

    • Polygons. These are all shapes that are closed and with straight sides. The word polygon is made of two words poly meaning many and gon meaning angles. Polygons can be concave where all angles point outwards or convex where at least one angle points inwards. The examples are triangles, quadrilaterals, hexagons, and pentagons.
    • Ellipses. The word ellipse is derived from the Greek word elleipsis meaning omission. An ellipse is a closed shape with two focal points and curved surfaces. Ellipses are similar to ovals, but ovals have both their focal points at the same distance from the center point. This creates a perfect symmetrical shape while most ellipses are asymmetrical. 
    • Circles. They are unique closed shapes since they do not have angles.  

    Closed shapes can be further categorized as two-dimensional and three-dimensional figures.

    Two-dimensional Geometric Shapes 

    These are shapes that have two dimensions such as length and width or breadth and depth. They are shapes that can be drawn on a flat surface. All 2D shapes have parameters such as area and perimeter. Below are some examples of 2D shapes:

    • Circles                      
    • Rhombus
    • Parallelogram
    • Triangle 
    • Square
    • Octagon
    • Quadrilateral
    • Hexagon
    • Trapezium

    Types of Quadrilaterals

    Quadrilaterals are two-dimensional shapes with four angles and four vertices. All interiors of a quadrilateral add up to 360 degrees. Quadrilaterals can be classified as concave and convex.

    Concave quadrilaterals are shapes that have angles pointing outwards, and convex ones have at least one angle pointing inwards. There are also regular and irregular polygons. Square is the only regular quadrilateral as all its sides are equal. 

    Below are the shapes names and pictures of the types of quadrilaterals:

    • Square
    • Rectangle
    • Trapezium
    • Rhombus
    • Kite 
    • Parallelogram

    Three-dimensional Geometric Shapes    

    3D geometric shapes are solids that have three dimension properties like height, breadth, and length. Since they have depth, they can occupy volume. Some 3D objects have some of their surfaces as 2D. Example of 3D shapes are:

    • Prisms
    •  Triangular prisms
    •  Rectangular based prisms 
    •  Square prisms                       
    • Polyhedrons
    • Tetrahedron
    • Octahedron
    • Cube
    • Pyramids
    • Hexagonal pyramids
    • Triangular pyramids
    • Square pyramids
    • Cone, cylinders, cuboids, and torus

    3D shapes are visible in real objects like balls, buckets, cone-shaped ice cream, cuboid boxes, roof houses, pyramids of giza, dice, building blocks, marbles, and stars among others.

    Shapes for Kids

    Below is a list of the basic shapes kids encounter at kindergarten:

    1. Circles
    2. Triangles
    3. Oval
    4. Square
    5. Rectangle
    6. Rhombus
    7. Trapezium
    8. Pentagon
    9. Cube 
    10. Cuboid

    Solved Examples on Shapes

    Example 1

    Which among the following list of shapes is not a closed shape?

    • Triangle
    • Rectangle
    • Zigzag
    • Circle

    Example 2

    Which of the following shapes is a 3D geometric shape?

    • Cylinder
    • Rectangle
    • Cuboid
    • Triangle

    Cylinder and cuboid are both 3D shapes since they have three dimension properties.

    Example 3

    Draw the figure for the following name of shapes

    1. Trapezium
    2. Hexagon
    3. Cylinder

    Frequently Asked QuestionsOn Shapes

    Below are some of the frequently asked questions on shapes:

    Why are shapes important for kids?

    Learning shapes is essential for kids as the knowledge of the topic helps them identify and organize visual information and understand signs and symbols. The knowledge of shapes helps in understanding geometric concepts like size and location as well as improve problem-solving skills.

    What are regular and irregular shapes?

    Regular shapes are shapes with length of sides that are equal and with interior angles that are also equal. 

    Irregular shapes are shapes that have sides of different lengths and angles of different sizes. 

    How do you identify shapes?

    You can identify a shape through the following steps:

    1. Look for attributes that can help identify the shape. This includes the number of sides, size of angles, parallel lines, and the number of angles.
    2. Use the attributes to classify and identify the shape.

    How many dimensions are there in a 2D shape?

    2D shapes have two dimensions such as width and length. An example is a rectangle. It has only two dimensions: length and width.

    How many dimensions are there in a 3D shape?

    A 3D shape has three dimensions such as length, width and height. An example is a cuboid which has length, width, and height. 


    Learning shapes enhances the foundational cognitive development in kids as they mostly notice and recognize shapes in their surroundings. Children are able to relate what they learned in class with different aspects of life. For example, while crossing the road, they can recognize the road sign by identifying its shape. To ensure that kids have a deeper understanding of shapes, educators should use engaging and fun teaching tools.

    Hands-on teaching techniques will be more beneficial while teaching kids since they can be able to see and touch the shape they are learning. This approach enhances knowledge retention so that when a kid comes across the shape in a different object, they can be able to give the shape definition and its attributes.

    Kid’s grade

    • Grade 1
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    • Grade 5
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    • Grade 7
    • Grade 8
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