Thursday, February 7, 2008

Project Idea: Measurement, Volume & Surface Area

We recently lost four days of instruction to benchmark testing before we were able to finish our unit on measurement. The benchmark did show that we needed more work on this objective, which I could have told you myself. Luckily though, it means I can justify continuing work on this same topic to my department (since we hadn't scheduled enough time for it in the first place).

I was planning on review and assessment of the more difficult parts of the objective, but I've adopted a no multiple choice test policy for the rest of the month at least. The students have had enough pencil and paper testing for a while, so I created a comprehensive project that will address everything they need to know.

As I discussed two weeks ago in Lesson Idea: Hands-On Surface Area and Volume, we had previously measured real objects, drawn nets, and calculated surface area and volume in class. Unfortunately many students didn't fully complete those assignments or did them incorrectly. Before we even started this unit, I had already decided to do a large scale, hands-on project at the end of the unit, but it wasn't until I had time to daydream during the benchmarks that all the pieces came together.

In short, students will find two real objects: a prism or cylinder (easy to find) and a pyramid, cone or cube (more difficult to find and work with). Then, they'll measure the dimensions, draw a net, find formulas for and calculate total surface area (TSA), lateral surface area (LSA), and volume for each object. Finally, they'll dilate the dimensions by 3 and by 1/2 and recalculate TSA, LSA and volume and review how to do simple problems of filling or emptying objects and a given rate.

All of this information will go on a half-size science project board that will later be displayed in the main lobby of our school for everyone to see. They'll attach their objects (if possible), create a title, and include a few sentences about "What We Learned" in addition to including all of the information calculated.

The enclosed project outline is designed to be easy to follow and mainly self-directed. I divided the work into Week 1: Collect Your Data and Week 2: Create Your Poster Board. I plan on giving them at least one day in class next week to work, so I can answer questions, reteach, and motivate them to stay on track.

I included these sample layouts for their project boards. On the enclosed outline, these spaces are left intentionally blank so you can fill in your own, but my hand-drawn samples are included below.

I designed this as a group project due to the amount of work and consideration of the heavy workload of their other classes, as well as a motivational tool. I also included "Completed by" underneath each section to remind students to split up the work and keep track of who's doing what.

We'll see how this project works out, as this is the first time I am trying this, but I am confident it will yield better results than the poor job I did last year on this topic. As always, please send your feedback and comments here or at teachforever AT gmail DOT com.

UPDATE: See the results of this project here!

For more project ideas and inspiration, check out my book, available now at