Learning about volume can be a blast for upper elementary students, and it’s important for teachers to make it fun and relatable. As a 5th grade teacher I remember dreading the measurement and data section in math, but over the years found ways to make it enjoyable for everyone! Here are five ideas that can help you teach volume in a fun and meaningful way.
1. Box City Building:
Give students boxes of different sizes and have them create their own city. You can use any type of box (cereal, Amazon, shoe boxes, etc.). I kept a collection of them stored in my classroom. I even asked students to bring in boxes from home if they had them.
Encourage them to think about how they can use the boxes to make different buildings and structures. Have them measure the volume of each box and compare their findings. Important to note, this activity will help students understand how volume is related to size and shape.
2. Alphabet Unifix Cubes:
Unifix cubes are a versatile and engaging tool that can be used to teach many mathematical concepts, including volume. A fun way to explore volume in a hands-on way is giving students unifix cubes to create shapes. I love doing this with letters of the alphabet. Simply call out a letter (letters with curves are not a good idea) and have students build the letter using the cubes. I like to challenge students by having them add extra layers to their letters (example: 4 cubes high, etc).
Once their letter is made, have them calculate the volume. Here is a quick worksheet students can use for calculating their measurements.
Student Challenge Idea:
Additionally, you can turn this into a table challenge and give each group letters that will spell a word. Each student in the group with build their letter and at the end they can mix the letters around until they discover the word! Bonus points if you use vocabulary words from science or ELA!
3. Making 3D Shapes:
Give students materials like clay, play-doh, or building blocks to create 3D shapes. Have them find the volume of their creations and compare with others. This activity will help students understand how volume is related to the size and shape of an object.
4. Use Real-Life Examples:
Students will understand the concept of volume much easier if you use real-life objects in your lesson. I like to start out a lesson on volume by explaining the definition and then showing the student objects they see each day. Find everyday items such as cups, bowls, lids, vases, and jars. Then use items like water, sand, rice, beads, and beans to fill these containers. I suggest using clear items so they can see them being filled. My favorite containers to use are a tall glass and a wide parfait bowl. Using rice is an easy and cheap filler for the containers.
My favorite part about this activity is that the picture above has the EXACT amount of rice in each container! My students are always blown away that the volume is the SAME! At this point, if you have students explore with their own containers and fillers, I suggest beads, unifix cubes and beans. Rice tends to get all over and water is, well, wet!
5. Volume- Discover the Formula:
Students learn the formula for volume by using building materials such as base ten cubes, wood blocks, unifix cubes, etc. This is a fun way to teach the formula for volume (length x width x height).
Volume Formula Races:
Divide your class into groups of 3-5 students. Give each group a number (ex. 24, 36, 42, etc). Each group will then take their building materials and create structures that when using the formula will equal the number they were given. The group with the most structures that match their number, wins! *Note: your students will measure in cubic units so their answer with be 24 cubic units, etc.
There are many ways to make teaching volume to upper elementary students fun. By incorporating hands-on activities and real-life examples, students will find it easier to understand the concept. Check out this post for fun ways to review for a math test.
Pin these activities!
I hope you found these activities to practice volume helpful! Pin these ideas to your favorite math teacher board for future reference and for safe keeping!