Volume of Rectangular Prisms

Shodor > Interactivate > Lessons > Volume of Rectangular Prisms


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


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • have been introduced to the concept of volume.
  • understand how to solve for the volume of rectangular prisms.

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

Key Terms

height of the triangular prismthe distance between the two bases
volumeA measure of the number of cubic units needed to fill the space inside an object

Lesson Outline

  1. Focus and Review

    Remind students of what they learned in previous lessons:

    • Area of squares, rectangles, and triangles
    • Basic properties of three-dimensional figures
    • Examples of three dimensional figures

  2. Objectives

    Let students know what they will being doing today and also what you hope they will learn through the lesson.

    • Today we will be focusing on finding the volume of rectangular prisms so we know "how much it can hold."
    • We will be using the computers later, but for now I want you to leave them closed and participate in our discussion.

  3. Teacher Input

    • Ask students if they know what volume is and engage students in a discussion about the definition of this term.
    • Show several example three-dimensional figures to the students (either physical models or from the Surface Area and Volume activity) and ask them to rank them from biggest volume to smallest volume.
    • Have students share their rankings and discuss how they determined "how much it could hold."
    • Begin a discussion on how to find the volume of a rectangular prism. By the end of this discussion students should understand that you need three measurements (length, width, and depth) to find the volume of the prism.

  4. Guided Practice

    • Open your browser to the Surface Area and Volume applet and introduce students to the applet and how to manipulate the measurements of rectangular prisms.
    • Have students work in pairs and use the Surface Area and Volume applet and the first sheet of the accompanying worksheet to see the relationship between the width, height, and depth of rectangular prisms.
    • After students have completed the first page of the worksheet, bring the class together to review the formula for the volume of a rectangular prism.
    • Introduce students to the Compute mode in the applet.
    • Note: If students will be finding only the volume of the prism and not the surface area, be sure to show the error message that will appear when you attempt to check answers.

  5. Independent Practice

    • Have students work in pairs using the Compute mode in the applet to correctly solve for the volume. Monitor the room for questions and be sure that the students are on the correct web site.

  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.
    • Students should have a strong grasp of the volume of a rectangular prism and be prepared for assessment.

Alternate Outline

The lesson can be arranged in several ways based on computer availability:

  • The class could work together to complete the chart on the first page of the worksheet by asking the teacher or a student to manipulate the applet while all students record.
  • While in Compute mode, students could direct another student or the teacher to manipulate the measurements of the prism and then all students can record their guess for the volume on their paper or an individual whiteboard. One student answer can be checked in the applet.

Suggested Follow-Up

  • This lesson can be followed by the Volume of Prism lesson, which covers generalizing the formula for volume for all prisms.
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