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Investigating Volume


  • Math
    --- Measurement


  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

In this hands-on lesson, students "discover" the concept of volume. They will learn the concept by using math manipulatives to measure volume.


  • record and measure volume.
  • use appropriate units and procedures to calculate volume.
  • use 1-inch cubes to calculate volume.


measuring, volume, measurement, cubic inches, cubic

Materials Needed

  • a large number of 1-inch cubes made of wood or plastic
  • a collection of different-size rectangular household boxes (examples: cereal boxes, tea bag boxes, saltine cracker boxes)
  • rulers
  • pencil and paper
  • work sheet (text of work sheet provided in The Lesson section below); alternatively, the instructions/questions could be posted on chart paper or a transparency for all to see/follow

The Lesson

For this lesson, you might pair up students or they can work individually.

Distribute to each student or student-pair two different-sized boxes. The boxes should be fairly manageable in size, since students are going to fill them with 1-inch cubes.

It might be a good idea to number the boxes and to create a master answer key that has on it each box number and its volume.
Have students use the 1-inch cubes to measure volume. Provide each student with a work sheet with the instructions and questions below on it (or post the text below on chart paper or a transparency and have students respond on paper). The work sheet will lead students to "discover" the meaning of volume.

Work Sheet Text
Investigating Volume

  1. Fill up one box with the 1-inch cubes.
  2. How many 1-inch cubes does it take to fill up/make up the length of the box? _____
  3. How many 1-inch cubes does it take to fill up/make up the width of the box? _____
  4. How many 1-inch cubes does it take to fill up/make up the height of the box? _____
  5. Count the number of 1-inch cubes it takes to fill the box. Write down the total number of cubes. _____
  6. Write this formula for finding volume:
    V = L x W x H
    (Volume = Length x Width x Height)
  7. Use a ruler to measure (in inches) the length, width, and height of the box.
  8. Multiply the length by the width by the height.
  9. What is your answer for the volume of the box? _____
  10. Is your answer to #5 the same as your answer to #9? _____
  11. Does that mean the volume is the amount of cubes it takes to fill a box? _____
  12. Look up the definition of volume in a dictionary and write it down.

Introduce students to the way of writing volume. For example a box that is 4 inches wide, 6 inches long, and 2 inches high has a volume of...

4 x 6 x 2 = 48 cubic inches or 48 in.3

At the end of the lesson, review the vocabulary volume and cubic inch to be certain students understand them.

Extension Activity
Now that students know how to figure the volume of a container without manually placing 1-inch cubes in it, provide much bigger boxes for students to use as they calculate volume. They can use 1-inch cubes or rulers to do that. Observe that they are able to correctly calculate the volume of those boxes.


Informally observe students for understanding throughout the lesson. Collect worksheets for a possible grade. Grade students as they figure volume in the extension activity.

Submitted By

Submitted by Erin Coy, Dacusville Elementary School in Easley, South Carolina

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Copyright © 2006 Education World

Originally published 05/04/2006
Last updated 10/15/2007