K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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  • Tangrams: While reading Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, students will be using tangrams to create the animals that the fox fairies are turning themselves into in this story.
  • Investigating surface area: This is a hands on lesson best used to introduce geometry students to 3-dimensional figures. Students will have the opportunity to draw 3-dimensionally and create collapsible figures which can be used to develop the standard surface area formulas.
  • Giving meaning to volume and surface area: This lesson is designed to help students give meaning to volume and surface area by solving problems using a meaningful situation rather than formulas.

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Learning outcomes


  • Students will distinguish between perimeter, area, and volume.
  • Students will explore how one factor affects the other.


  • Students will calculate the perimeter of shapes and express in appropriate measurement units.
  • Students will calculate the area of shapes and express in appropriate measurement units.
  • Students will calculate the volume of shapes and express in appropriate measurement units.
  • Students will describe their findings as to how one affects the other.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 Weeks


  • graph paper
  • coloring pencils
  • notebook paper and pencils
  • math journal
  • string and tape and rulers
  • centimeter cubes
  • individual sets of tangram pieces (These can be made out of paper or purchased from Bender-Burkott)
  • overhead projector set of tangrams (If you do not wish to purchase these, they can be made from transparent folders that come in colors of blue, yellow, red. They are very inexpensive. The colors will show through on an overhead projector. I like to use different colors so that the students can see the difference in the shapes)
  • 3×5 index cards

Technology resources

  • computers with internet access
  • overhead projector


Day 1

  1. This will be an exploring day. The students will be given individual sets of tangrams to work with.
  2. The students will first attempt to make the original square with their tangram pieces. After the students have had time to attempt this on their own, the teacher will then make the original square on the overhead using teacher tangram set.
  3. The discussion will then revolve around perimeter for Day 1. The students will then trace the square on graph paper. They should be able to slide it onto their graph paper or they could have graph paper on their desk to be building on. We will then calculate the perimeter.
  4. The teacher will then create several shapes using tangrams on the overhead and demonstrate finding their perimeter. The students will then be asked to make at least 5 more shapes using their tangrams. They will trace each on graph paper and determine the perimeter.

Day 2

(Teacher will demonstrate this method with overhead tangram set)

  1. The students will be asked to choose one of the shapes made from tangrams on Day 1 (not the square). They will use string to outline the shape. Tape string down at vertices. Cut to the correct length.
  2. Then they will remove the string and measure it. If you used centimeter graph paper, you will need to measure the string in centimeters. My goal here is to help the students see that the string is really one-dimensional. We will repeat this process with another shape created from Day 1.
  3. The students will then be asked to reflect on what they learned about perimeter in their math journals. Using Math Goodies, the students will answer the 5 questions involving perimeter.
  4. The students will then write 5 questions of their own using the same format on 3×5 index cards. (One question per card and they should solve on the back) They will be directed tohttp://www.funbrain.com/poly/index.html to play the game dealing with perimeter.

Day 3

  1. Quickly review perimeter. Brainstorm ways we use perimeter (putting up a fence, framing a picture, etc.). Today we will deal with the inside. Tell them this is area. We will use our graph paper shapes from Day 1. Using their colored pencils they are to number each centimeter square that is inside their shape. We will number only whole squares. Pieces of squares will be colored as we pair them with other pieces to make whole squares. Each of the little pieces that are paired together to make one square will be colored the same color. This will make it easier to count the area.
  2. They will then complete this process with all of their shapes that were traced on graph paper. When this has been completed we will talk about how to write the answer. We will discuss that measurement is involving two dimensions - length and width. Therefore we write it in units square.
  3. The students will reflect in their math journals about what they have learned concerning area.

Day 4

  1. Access shodor.org’s Perimeter Explorer. Today the students will be preferably using the computer lab so that the students would all have access to this site. You could also use the game Area Explorer.
  2. Using the help choice under the title will be helpful in understanding the rules and how to play each of these games. The students will need to have pencil and paper with them to complete this activity. They will divide their paper into three columns labeled Area, Perimeter, and Correct.
  3. The student will adjust the area and then calculate the perimeter. They will need to record their answer each time before checking it on the computer. Then in the correct column, record yes or no. They will need to complete 25 trials. Check scores and record.
  4. Students will then analyze their data and make some generalizations as to how area and perimeter are interrelated. They will need to respond in their math journals.

Day 5

  1. Students will be given access to centimeter cubes. The teacher will then give them shapes to create matching the description.
    • Example: Create a shape having an area of 25 centimeters squared. (It takes them a few times to realize that will be using 25 cubes since you can’t cut them in pieces. But I never tell them. They have to figure it out.) Create a shape having a perimeter of 14 centimeters. Now fill it and calculate the area.
  2. Continue with similar problems until the teacher is satisfied with student understanding. Using the computer lab again, have students go to Shape Explorer. (This site has great directions by clicking How under the title.)
  3. Repeat process as in Day 4 with 25 trials. The students will need to make 4 columns today: Perimeter, Correct, Area, Correct. They will need to record their answer and then check score. Respond in the correct column yes or no.

Day 6

    Today we will introduce volume. Quickly review perimeter and area.
  1. Have students to each make a 4×4 square using centimeter cubes. Discuss the perimeter and area of this. Now have the students to work in groups of four. Each will stack their 4×4 square on top of each others to make one.
  2. Discuss with them how many cubes are in each layer. Therefore, how many cubes total? Explain that this is the volume. It is what is inside just like area, but this time there are three dimensions - length, width, and height. Therefore, we write our answer in units to the third.
  3. Practice a few more like this. Students will respond in their math journals as to what they have learned about volume.

Day 7

  1. Students will return to the computer lab and go to Surface Area and Volume. This game deals with three-dimensional figures. The “How” section is a great tool for directions. The students will also need the accompanying worksheet to complete this activity. The teacher may want to make the worksheet in advance from this site.
  2. The students will adjust the width, depth, and height of the rectangular prism. They will need to keep a record of their 25 trials. This page should include 5 columns: Width, Depth, Height, Volume, (Blank for now).
  3. After the students have filled in the chart, we will discuss the findings. The last column will be for formula. In our discussions, we will get to how volume is calculated (LxWxH). Then they will check their volume from the game by using the formula. Math journal responses will be made.

Day 8

  1. The students will need this Triangle Explorer Exploration Questions worksheet. Teacher may want to have it prepared in advance for the students.
  2. The students will be drawing triangles on graph paper to answer these exploration questions. Then the students will go to Triangle Explorer. Directions can be found at Help. The students will make 25 trials recording their answers as Type of Triangle (Scalene, Isosceles, Equilateral, Right), Area, and Correct.


CATEGORY: 1. Excellent 2. Good 3. Satisfactory 4. Needs Improvement

Mathematical Errors:

  1. 90-100% of the steps and solutions have no mathematical errors.
  2. Almost all (85-89%) of the steps and solutions have no mathematical errors.
  3. Most (75-84%) of the steps and solutions have no mathematical errors.
  4. More than 75% of the steps and solutions have mathematical errors.

Use of Manipulatives:

  1. Student always listens and follows directions and only uses manipulatives as instructed.
  2. Student typically listens and follows directions and uses manipulatives as instructed most of the time.
  3. Student sometimes listens and follows directions and uses manipulatives appropirately when reminded.
  4. Student rarely listens and often “plays” with the manipulatives instead of using them as instructed.

Mathematical Concepts:

  1. Explanation shows complete understanding of the mathematical concepts used to solve the problem(s).
  2. Explanation shows substantial understanding of the mathematical concepts used to solve the problem(s).
  3. Explanation shows some understanding of the mathematical concepts needed to solve the problem(s).
  4. Explanation shows very limited understanding of the underlying concepts needed to solve the problem(s) OR is not written.

Mathematical Reasoning:

  1. Uses complex and refined mathematical reasoning.
  2. Uses effective mathematical reasoning.
  3. Some evidence of mathematical reasoning.
  4. Little evidence of mathematical reasoning.


  1. Typically, uses an efficient and effective strategy to solve the problem(s).
  2. Typically, uses an effective strategy to solve the problem(s).
  3. Sometimes uses an effective strategy to solve problems, but does not do it consistently.
  4. Rarely uses an effective strategy to solve problems.
  1. Explanation is detailed and clear.
  2. Explanation is clear.
  3. Explanation is a little difficult to understand, but includes critical components.
  4. Explanation is difficult to understand and is missing several components OR was not included.

Supplemental information


This plan was adapted from a series of activities, lessons, and discussions from Project Interactivate which is a part of www.shodor.org.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • Measurement & Data
          • 4.MD.3Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with...
        • Grade 5

          • 5.MD.3Recognize volume as an attribute of solid figures and understand concepts of volume measurement.
          • 5.MD.4Measure volumes by counting unit cubes, using cubic cm, cubic in, cubic ft, and improvised units.
          • 5.MD.5Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and solve real world and mathematical problems involving volume.
      • Grade 6

        • Geometry
          • 6.G.1Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by composing into rectangles or decomposing into triangles and other shapes; apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
          • 6.G.2Find 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....

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 2: Measurement - The learner will understand and use perimeter and area.
    • Objective 2.02: Solve problems involving perimeter of plane figures and areas of rectangles.

Grade 5

  • Goal 3: Geometry - The learner will understand and use properties and relationships of plane figures.
    • Objective 3.01: Identify, define, describe, and accurately represent triangles, quadrilaterals, and other polygons.