Our middle school math students have been busy these last couple of months. We have been in our geometry unit studying solids, surface area, and volume. What better way to make geometry more meaningful than to make it jump off the pages of our textbooks.
Our first project was to create a robot/tin man. Students brought in all sorts of boxes, balls, cones, and tubes. They had to calculate the surface area of the parts they chose for their robots/tin man. Then, using the exact amount of tinfoil they ordered, they had to wrap their robot/tin man to see if they accurately calculated the surface area. It was fun to see the look on their faces when they came to order their tinfoil and a rectangle was handed to them. Many of them walked away determined to make it work because they were confident in their calculations while others were a little unsure. In the end they were all pleasantly surprised to see that they were able to make it all work by strategically cutting their foil.
Next, the students explored volume. We had focused on the outside of a solid but now it was time to see what the inside of a solid could hold. What better way to motivate than bringing in popcorn and pretzels? They were challenged to create a container with the largest volume possible so it would hold the most popcorn or pretzels that it could. They could only use one sheet of paper, they had to make a rectangular prism, and they were not allowed to add any extra paper. With popcorn and pretzels on the line the students had some interesting conversations about how to achieve the greatest volume possible and enjoyed discussing their findings over a container of snacks!
We wrapped up our study of surface area and volume with a fun design project to tie it all together. The students got to construct their own pyramids! From start to finish: design- dimensions – calculations- decoration, it was open to them to be as creative as they wanted. They even got to brush up on the Pythagorean Theorem to find the drop height of their pyramids! In the design process students had to calculate the surface area and volume of their pyramids while staying in the size guidelines. Boy did they turn out cute!
By: Mrs. Forrest, Middle School Math