Introducing Surface Area with Pop Box Design

After sharing this activity on last nights Global Math Department meeting (recording here), I thought I should also post it here.

I came across the Pop Box Design task developed by Timon Piccini and knew it would be a good fit for my students.

My students needed to understand surface area, not just be able to use formulas. I’m proud that during this activity I didn’t say surface area once.

I started by playing Timon’s Act 1 of this task and allowing time for students to notice & wonder about the short video. Then students predicted which box uses less cardboard (lower left of board).

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We spent the remainder of the period playing with cm cubes and reviewing the meaning of and difference between surface area & volume using the worksheet attached in Timon’s 3 act.

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The next class, I provided 12 pack boxes of each shape and put them in students hands, asking again – Which one uses more cardboard?

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Students grabbed rulers and got to work finding area. They asked if they should be using inches or centimeters. I responded by asking which one requires more cardboard?

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Once students determined the amount of cardboard used for each box, they logged into Google Classroom and wrote a letter to either soda box manufacturer or to me sharing their work, conclusions & recommendations:

letter1 letter2 letter3

The Good

  • Using Google Classroom to manage letters & provide feedback. Students are still revising their letters.
  • Illustration of surface area, we’ve referred back to this as we dug deeper into more advanced surface area problems.
  • Physically touching & measuring the boxes increases buy in, engagement & understanding.

Change for next time

  • Work with the class to develop a list of key elements to include in the letter.
  • Some facts on cost of cardboard, ink, production & environmental impacts to increase relevancy.
  • Improve connection between cubes & cardboard task. Some students did not see how these were related.

This task was a good, efficient way to ensure that students understand what surface area means and not just develop their ability to calculate surface area. As we practiced more advanced surface area problems, students were more understanding of what they were doing and was better able to develop formulas to find surface areas of a variety of  solids.

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