Conceptual Surface Area

Getting further into my drought PBL (and test prep) and I needed a way to get my students to understand surface area, not just be fed a formula and worksheets like the dutiful students that they are (ha!).  Enter Matt Coaty and his surface area activity. (Disclaimer: yes, surface area of rectangular prisms is a 6th grade standard, but I needed them to GET IT before moving onto irregular shapes, which is the 7th grade standard).

I modified his handout somewhat to fit my needs, and instead of taking pictures before and after the wrapping to paste onto the worksheet itself, I had the students do the before, the net, and the after and post the results into a shared Google Slide presentation.

This activity was excruciatingly, painfully lengthy longer than I anticipated.  Like I mentioned in my previous PBL post, the learning curve when it comes to using technology lengthens the projected time of a lesson–in this case 5 fold.  Because everyone was at different places in the activity the further we went along, it’s a good thing they had their research project to work on while waiting for their peers to finish up.

I think this activity was meaningful on many levels, not just for the mathematical content.  My students really got a feel for using technology and what you can do with it.  I still plan to have them do a “gallery walk” so they can comment with their “two stars and a wish”.  So that the various slides get a somewhat equitable amount of comments, I think I’ll have them comment on the three slide sets previous to theirs. All in all, it was a great activity and with some minor adjustments I would do it again.


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