Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism

Shodor > Interactivate > Lessons > Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism


This lesson is designed to introduce students to the concept of surface area and how to find the surface area of rectangular prisms.


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • have a basic understanding of the concept of surface area.
  • understand how to solve problems using the surface area of a rectangular prism.

Standards Addressed:

Textbooks Aligned:

Student Prerequisites

  • Arithmetic: Students must be able to:
    • perform integer and rational arithmetic
    • find the area of squares and rectangles
  • Technological: Students must be able to:
    • perform basic mouse manipulations such as point, click and drag
    • use a browser for experimenting with the activities

Teacher Preparation

  • Physical manipulative objects as examples of triangular prisms
  • Access to browser for pairs of students
  • Paper and pencil
  • Student copies of Record Sheets

Key Terms

surface areaA measure of the number of square units needed to cover the outside of a figure

Lesson Outline

  1. Focus and Review

    Remind students what has been covered in previous lessons and have students review the following:

    • Area of shapes (squares and rectangles)
    • Basic concept of surface area
    • Basic properties of three-dimensional figures
  2. Objectives

    Let students know what they will be doing and learning today. Say something like this:

    • Today we are going to be discussing surface area and finding the surface area of rectangular prisms.
    • We are going to continue to use the Surface Area and Volume applet that we have used previously to find the volume of prisms. Please don't open your computers until I instruct you to do so.
  3. Teacher Input
    • Lead students in a discussion about surface area.
    • Be prepared to show students physical models of prisms and explain the pairs of sides.
  4. Guided Practice
    • Introduce Surface Area and Volume applet to students who are unfamiliar.
    • Make sure that students are using Rectangular Prism under the drop-down menu.
    • Note: If students will be using the Compute mode for finding only the surface area of the rectangular prism, be sure to show students the error message that will appear.
  5. Independent Practice
  6. Closure
    • You may wish to bring the class back together to discuss any problems that were especially hard for students to solve. Once the students have been allowed to share what they found, summarize once more the main points of the lesson.
    • You may wish to have students discuss the second question on the Record Sheet that asks students to look for a relationship between the volume and surface area of a rectangular prism.

Alternate Outline

This lesson can be rearranged for if there is only one computer available in the classroom.

  • Instead of having students complete Record Sheet in pairs, display the Compute mode on a classroom computer, record the dimensions on the whiteboard, and have students work independently to solve for the surface area. Once students have computed the surface area, have one student enter the number to check answer.

Suggested Follow-Up

  • This lesson is designed to be followed by a lesson that generalizes the formula for surface area to all prisms.
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