What’s the first thing you should do when introducing volume to your students? GIVE THEM UNIT CUBES!
The best way to get your students to understand the concept of volume is to put it right in their hands. Provide students with a handful of unit cubes and begin by introducing them to the concept of a unit cube and how it’s measured: cubic units. THEY WILL LOVE IT!
Do you want to get them even more engaged?
Turn the lesson over to them! Use a document camera to model various figures, then let your students come up to the document camera and create a figure of their own for their classmates to model. They can then call on their peers to state the volume of the figure.
As they progress, you can begin to introduce the 3 dimensions (length, width, and height) that form a 3D object (right rectangular prism) and are represented by that lovely exponent, 3.
Unit cubes can be used beyond just an introduction to volume. There are several 5th grade volume standards that are best illustrated with hands-on modeling.
Progression of Volume Lessons Using Unit Cubes
- Begin by introducing them to one unit cube with a volume of 1 cubic unit.
- Have students create figures that are made of more than one cube and measure the figure in cubic units.
- Form right rectangular prisms with unit cubes, identifying the length, width, and height of the prism.
- Create composite figures with unit cubes that students can break apart into two separate right rectangular prisms to find their additive (composite) volume.
- Use a document camera to model and project different figures for students to create
- When students work independently, allow them to model the images from their classwork
- Irregular figures – show them that sometimes a unit cube can be “hidden” underneath another unit cube. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
Need More Help Teaching Volume?
Check out my digital and printable volume resource.
Assess students with this highly engaging project – VOLUMEVILLE!