Queen Dido of Carthage

Learning about perimeter and area through fashion

Key stage: 3
Subjects: mathematics, 3D, shapes


Fashion design and garment construction provide an ideal context to explore intriguing mathematical concepts via hands-on tasks, strengthening the pupils' visualisation skills and deepening their understanding of geometry and its place in mathematics as well as in the world around us.

This resource pack was developed specially for Y8 and Y9 pupils to consolidate the concepts of perimeter and area of 2d shapes. See also the Y7 counterpart under 'Pick's Theorem'. Both can be adapted to other year groups.

The sequence of lessons starts with an investigation on the shape with maximal area given a fixed perimeter followed by a practical activity designed to consolidate the meaning of perimeter and addressing misconceptions common at this age.

The activity is part of a series of fashion design-themed resources, a project developed by the Royal Institution, inspired by the work of the fashion designer Julian Roberts. In his Subtraction Cutting Masterclass, Julian uses straightforward ideas of perimeter, area and volume. His innovative approach to garment construction is intriguing and puts to the test anyone's visualisation skills. Understanding the approach and outcomes requires abstract concepts such as the topology of surfaces, curvature and space-filling curves. Julian uses his own body to take measurements and has developed his own 'tricks' to estimate the perimeter and area of shapes.

Curricular links:

  • Perimeter, area and volume
  • 2d shapes
  • 2d representation of 3d shapes
  • Investigation, mathematical thinking
  • Optimization, min and max problems
  • Fractals
  • Mathematics in the world around us
  • Mathematics in our cultural heritage

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