Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cubed Containers

Renee Black


This lesson allows for cooperative groups to explore volume in relation to centimeter cubes and other nonstandard units of measurement using small containers.


The student writes number sentences for given situations involving the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers.

The student uses estimation strategies to determine a reasonable estimate of a quantity.

The student knows measurement concepts and can use oral and written language to communicate them..

The student uses a wide variety of concrete objects to investigate measurement of length, weight, capacity, area, perimeter, and volume (for example, cubes, grid paper, string, squares).


-Graph paper and pencils for each student
-Centimeter cubes (enough for groups of three to share)
-Small different-shaped containers (medicine cups, small jewelry boxes, small tuna cans, potted plant water trays, etc.)
-Baby jar filled with small candies
-Paper clips
-Small clean tuna cans
-Small jewelry boxes
-Overhead with marker
-Overhead graph paper transparency
-Graduated cylinder


1. Have small containers, centimeter cubes, marbles, paper clips, and graph paper ready to distribute.
2. Have overhead materials ready to use.
3. Have baby jar filled with small candies and the paper clips ready to refill jar.
4. Be prepared to take an example of each container and fill with water to compare volume of water to nonstandard units of measure.


1. Hold up a baby jar and have students make individual estimates of the contents, and write on the overhead. Offer the contents to the one who comes closest to the correct amount of candy.

2. Ask students if the number of paper clips put into the now empty jar would be the same as the number of small candies. Have them make individual predictions and record on overhead.

3. Check their predictions.

4. Graph candy amount and paper clip amount on overhead graph paper. Be sure to label the axis and give the graph a title.

5. Discuss the meaning of -volume- and how it relates to the amount of candies and paper clips the baby jar held.

6. Show different small containers and relate volume to the shapes of the containers.

7. Divide the class into groups of three.

8. Have each group make a prediction about the number of centimeter cubes that the first small shape will hold.

9. Check the predictions, and have each student graph the first amount.

10. Pass out the other containers, and have the groups go through steps eight and nine on their own.

11. The groups will rotate the containers and get at least four different measurements for the different containers on their graph paper.

12. Go through steps eight through eleven using different nonstandard units of measurement.

13. Each group will create at least two math sentences comparing data (ie. 12 + __ = 18 or greater/lesser problems, subtraction problems).

14. Demonstrate how water can be used to measure volume by pouring water into separate containers and then pouring into cylinder to measure volume.


The teacher is looking for the ability of students to connect the concept of volume with the product of number-sentences and graphs. This lesson is designed to introduce the concept of volume. Assessments with this lesson are not to be graded. They are to determine whether or not students understand the concepts presented. Assessment will be based on the completed graphs, the math sentences, and teacher observation of interaction between group members. This work should demonstrate that students

-write accurate number sentences regarding their findings about volume

-use estimation strategies to determine a reasonable estimation of volume

-use oral language to communicate knowlege of measurement concepts

-use a variety of concrete objects to investigate measurement of capacity and volume
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