What Are Vertices, Faces And Edges? Explained For Primary School Parents & Teachers

Vertices, faces and edges come up a lot in primary school geometry when children are learning about the properties of 3d shapes. Here we explain what each of these mean and how to work out the number of vertices, faces and edges for any shape. We also include the number of edges, faces and vertices of the most common shapes. 

This vocabulary is introduced in the national curriculum at Year 2, and so the following information can be used with pupils throughout primary school years. Even Year 1 pupils can begin to engage with properties of shapes in this way if you want to give them a head start!

What are vertices?

Vertices (or vertex in its singular form) are the point where two or more line segments or edges meet. These can be used to describe 2d and 3d shapes. ‘Corners’ is a word used synonymous with vertices. Where possible, vertex and vertices should be used instead. A cube has 8 vertices. 7 are visible here and one is hidden.

A cube with its vertices pointed out

What are edges?

Edges are the line segments that join one vertex to another and are also where the shape’s faces meet. These can be used to describe 2d and 3d shapes. Although many shapes have straight lines and straight edges, there are shapes which have curved edges, such as a hemisphere. A cube will have 12 straight edges as seen below; 9 are visible and 3 are hidden.

a cube with its edges marked up

What are faces?

Faces are the flat surface of a solid shape. For example, a cuboid has 6 faces. When thinking about 2d and 3d shapes, it is important to know that a 2d shape merely represents the face of a 3d shape. 

It is also important to know that as our reality is constructed in 3 dimensions, it is impossible to physically handle 2d shapes as we are surrounded by 3-dimensional shapes. Therefore, if in your classroom there is a drawer labelled ‘2d Shapes’ this should be removed as it is teaching children a misconception. Although an interactive concept for the classroom, 2d shapes can only exist as 2 dimensional drawings. 

You can have both flat faces and curved faces, but I find it helpful to refer to curved faces as curved surfaces as it matches well with the visual of the shape. 

There are three faces that are visible and three that are hidden on the cube below.

a cube with its faces labelled

Free Year 2 3D Shapes Independent Recap Worksheets

Help your Year 3 (and older) pupils revise vertices, faces and edges with our free Independent Recap worksheets.

Vertices, faces and edges of common 3d shapes

How many faces, edges and vertices does a cuboid have?

A cuboid has 8 vertices.

A cuboid has 12 edges.

A cuboid has 6 faces. 

image of a cuboid

How many faces, edges and vertices does a cylinder have?

A cylinder has 0 vertices.

A cylinder has 2 edges.

A cylinder has 2 faces and 1 curved surface.

image of a cylinder

How many faces, edges and vertices does a hemisphere have?

A hemisphere has 0 vertices.

A hemisphere has 1 curved edge.

A hemisphere has 1 face and 1 curved surface.

image of a hemisphere

How many faces, edges and vertices does a cone have?

A cone has 1 vertex.

A cone has 1 edge.

A hemisphere has 1 face and 1 curved surface.

image of a cone

How many faces, edges and vertices does a tetrahedron have?

A tetrahedron has 4 vertices.

A tetrahedron has 6 edges.

A tetrahedron has 4 faces.

image of a tetrahedron

How many faces, edges and vertices does a sphere have?

A sphere has 0 vertices.

A tetrahedron has 0 edges.

A tetrahedron has 1 curved surface.

image of a sphere

How many faces, edges and vertices does a prism have?

A prism is a solid object, geometric shape or polyhedron where the faces of both ends are the same shape. As such, students will come across many types of prisms throughout their schooling. Common ones include cubes, cuboids, triangular prisms, pentagonal prisms and hexagonal prisms.

ShapePictorialFacesEdgesVertices
Triangular Prism596
Pentagonal Prism71510
Hexagonal Prism81812
Cube  This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is what-are-vertices-11.jpg6812
Cuboidimage of a cuboid6812

When will my child learn about vertices, faces and edges in primary school?

Children need to be formally introduced to the vocabulary of vertices, faces and edges in Year 2 when studying geometry. However, teachers may make the choice to introduce this vocabulary earlier on.

Year 2 pupils should be able to:

  • identify and describe the properties of 3-D shapes, including the number of edges, vertices and faces

The non-statutory guidance states that:

  • Pupils handle and name a wide variety of common 2-d and 3-d shapes including: quadrilaterals and polygons, and cuboids, prisms and cones, and identify the properties of each shape (for example, number of sides, number of faces). Pupils identify, compare and sort shapes on the basis of their properties and use vocabulary precisely, such as sides, edges, vertices and faces.

From this point on, the national curriculum does not reference vertices, faces and edges explicitly again, so teachers in other year groups will have to continue to use this vocabulary when looking at shape 

A slide from Third Space Learning's online maths intervention, using the relationship between 2d and 3d shapes to help Year 3 pupils identify vertices, faces and edges.
A slide from Third Space Learning’s online maths intervention, using the relationship between 2d and 3d shapes to help Year 3 pupils identify vertices, faces and edges.

How do vertices, faces and edges relate to other areas of maths?

Students will use the knowledge of vertices, faces and edges when looking at 2d shapes as well as 3d shapes. Knowing what edges are and identifying them on compound shapes is crucial for finding the perimeter and area of 2d compound shapes. It is an important foundation for later years when dealing with different maths theorems, such as graph theory and parabolas.

How do vertices, faces and edges relate to real life?

Any object in real life has vertices, faces and edges. For example, a crystal is an octahedron – it has eight faces, twelve edges and six vertices. Knowing these properties for different three-dimensional shapes lays the foundation for various industries such as architecture, interior design, engineering and more. 

Vertices, faces and edges example questions

1. Explain what a vertex is.

(Answer: A vertex is where two lines meet)

2. How many edges does a triangular prism have?

(Answer: 9)

3. How many vertices does a cone have?

(Answer: 1 vertex)

4. How many faces does a cuboid have? What are the 2D shapes of those faces?

(Answer: 6 faces. They can have 2 square faces and 4 rectangular faces or just 6 rectangular faces.)

5. For all the common prisms (cubes, cuboids, triangular prisms, pentagonal prisms and hexagonal prisms) add the faces and vertices together and subtract the edges. What do you notice about the answers?

(Answer: The answer is always 2. This is known as Euler’s formula (number of vertices – number of edges + number of faces = 2)

Wondering about how to explain other key maths vocabulary to your children? Check out our Primary Maths Dictionary, or try these:

You can find plenty of geometry lesson plans and printable worksheets for primary school pupils on the Third Space Learning Maths Hub.

Online 1-to-1 maths lessons trusted by schools and teachers
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of primary school children with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons and maths interventions. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 80,000 children become more confident, able mathematicians. Learn more or request a personalised quote to speak to us about your needs and how we can help.

Our online tuition for maths programme provides every child with their own professional one to one maths tutor

Neil Almond
Neil Almond
Woodland AT Primary
Lead Teacher
Neil is a primary school lead teacher and TES contributor, as well as a writer for Third Space.
x
Downloadable resource

Free Year 2 3D Shapes Independent Recap Worksheets

Help your Year 3 (and older) pupils revise vertices, faces and edges with our free Independent Recap worksheets.

Download Free Now!

Free Year 2 3D Shapes Independent Recap Worksheets

Downloadable resource

Help your Year 3 (and older) pupils revise vertices, faces and edges with our free Independent Recap worksheets.

Download Free Now!