Area and Perimeter Activities

I love teaching area and perimeter! These geometry concepts lend themselves to some really fun hands-on activities, which is something I always enjoy!

Here are some of my favorite activities to teach area and perimeter:

1. Area and Perimeter Songs
2. Area and Perimeter Outdoor Game
I try to include movement throughout the day, whenever I can. This is a simple area and perimeter game that could be played either on a blacktop, in the gym, or on a grassy field. The important thing is that there is an obvious perimeter or boundary line around the outside of the square or rectangular area. 

Start with several taggers in the middle of the center area. I usually use three but you can use as few or as many as you'd like. The rest of the class stands on the perimeter and walks in a clockwise direction. The teacher calls out (in a sing-song or goofy voice if you'd like) Perimeter... Perimeter... Perimeter... (randomly, as many times as you'd like). Then calls out, area!!! When the kids hear the word area, they have to go across the area to the other side, while being careful NOT to bump into anyone else. If a student is tagged while in the area, he/she becomes IT and will try to tag kids on the next turn. The tagger then moves to the perimeter. Once kids make it to the perimeter, they are safe. 

Playing this game is a great way to help those kids who still have trouble remembering the difference between the area and the perimeter, no matter how many times we remind them! 

3. Cheez-It or Rice Chex Exploration
Since this activity involves food, you'll want to make sure to check on any school guidelines regarding food before proceeding. Also, since some kids have food allergies, that's something else to consider. If kids have wheat, soy, or dairy allergies, Rice Chex may be used instead of Cheez-Its.

To prepare for this activity, I have the Cheez-Its or Rice Chex counted out ahead of time and placed in baggies to make it quick and easy to pass these out. Giving each child a quick squirt of hand sanitizer before starting is a great idea too!

Next, you'll want to have each child cover his/her desktop (or most of it) with paper to keep the Cheez-Its clean. This is when I grab the oldest/ugliest/most random colored construction paper found in the bottom of my paper drawer since the paper is not as important as the activity. Newsprint is pretty cheap and works well too.

After we talk about how each Cheeze-It is a square unit, I ask the kids to build something with a perimeter of _____, or with an area of _____. Kids will come up with different answers for some of these, and we discuss how that's okay and that often times, several answers will be correct. Sometimes, I'll ask them to make a shape with a perimeter of 12 for example. Then I'll ask them to make a different shape with a perimeter of 12. Lots of learning taking place with this hands on lesson. 

Right before we end the lesson, I ask the kids to make two different polygons and to write down the perimeter and area for each (next to the polygons). Then I walk around doing quick spot checks and once checked, the kids can eat their Cheeze-Its, and recycle their greasy paper.

4. Geoboards for Area and Perimeter
If you are lucky enough to have a class set of geoboards, now is a great time to use them. This activity is similar to the Cheeze-It activity. You can ask students to make a square with an area of 16, or make a polygon with a perimeter of 20. Triangles can also be made, although we know that going from one peg to another diagonally is not exactly the same length as going vertically or horizontally from one peg to another. It's up to you if you want to include triangles or to stick with squares and rectangles.

After we've done lots of examples together, one thing I do like to do at the end of this lesson is to have kids create two shapes. One is strictly for perimeter, so it can be any shape. The other should be a square or rectangle so the area can be easily determined. After each student creates two shapes on his/her geoboard, he/she trades geoboards with a partner, who tries to solve the perimeter and area of the other person's shapes. This gives kids added practice and sometimes a little help or confirmation from another classmate.

5. Block Letter Names
Most kids LOVE seeing their names as art! Block Letter Names are a very simple activity but I do make sure to have kids work in pairs or small groups of threes since sometimes making letters without using diagonals can be tricky. You may have a few kids who are ready and able to use diagonals to find perimeter and area, which is great, but is a much more advanced activity!

To make the Block Letter Names, each child lightly traces his/her name in pencil on graph paper. Next, students find the area and perimeter, since it's easier to count now, before the paper is colored. Kids can make tiny dots as they count, or even just lightly touching the squares helps some kids keep track of numbers better. Scratch paper or small whiteboards can also be used to keep a running total of each letter. Once all letters are calculated, it's time to total them and to record the area and perimeter at the bottom of the page. Next, the letters are traced in marker and colored in with either crayons, colored pencils, or markers.

6. Tape Squares or Rectangle Shapes on the Floor
You can use masking tape or painter's tape for this activity. You'll want to measure these carefully as you create them, so the answer is clear (no fourths or halves for example, unless your students are ready for this). You'll also want to make a key as you go. Do make sure to add either a number or letter to each shape, so kids can keep track of them when recording answers. 

After explaining the activity, making sure to model an example for them, it's time to get started. I would suggest putting kids in pairs to work on this activity with clipboards, record sheets (even binder paper works for this), and pencils. 

When kids are done, early finishers might make a page in their math notebooks with the perimeter and area of real objects in their desks (pencil box, book, notebook...) or around the room (top of the Kleenex box, top of the desk, a rectangular basket...). An enrichment idea for early finishers is to give the area and perimeter of a mystery object in the classroom. Kids can measure different objects in the classroom to try to find that mystery object!

7. Make a Robot, Monster, Person, Animal, or Any Kind of Object and Find its Area and Perimeter
You could have the whole class do the same thing (for example, all create people) or you could make it a wide-open assignment. The idea is that kids use graph paper and design an object using squares (and half squares if your kids are ready). Kids figure out the area and the perimeter of the shape and then color the squares in the object. Besides being a great learning activity, these are also fun to display on a bulletin board!

8. Design a Dream House, Zoo, Carnival, Playground, or Any Place and Find its Area and Perimeter
This is similar to the object activity, but a little more advanced. Again, you could assign the whole class the same project, or throw out some ideas and let kids choose one or come up with their own. I can see students possibly designing video game lands for example, and why not? As long as they are practicing area and perimeter, to me, that's fine. All you need for this activity is graph paper, rulers, pencils, and colored pencils or crayons to add some color.

9. Play the Land Grab Game
This game is easily played with graph paper, a pair of dice, and two different colored crayons or colored pencils. Kids play in pairs. The first person rolls the dice. One dice is the length and the other is the width (it doesn't matter which one is which for this game). The first player multiplies the numbers on the dice and makes a rectangle with that area on the graph paper, using their color (one of the two colored pencils/crayons). For example, if he/she rolls a five and a four, he/she makes a rectangle with an area of 20. He/she also writes the total area inside the shape. Players take turns until the time is up or there is no more room on the page. Players then add their areas (I would suggest a calculator if time is limited) and the person with the greatest area wins.

10. Mentor Text
Here are two books which are especially good for teaching area and perimeter:

Spaghetti and Meatballs for All: A Mathematical Story by Marilyn Burns is written specifically to get kids thinking about the perimeter and area of tables, as family is coming over to visit Mr. and Mrs. Comfort! 

Kid will enjoy Perimeter, Area, and Volume by David Adler, with its movie and monsters theme! Kids can figure out the perimeter of the set, the area of the movie screen, and later if you teach volume, they can calculate the volume of your popcorn box!

11. Area and Perimeter Task Cards
One of my favorite ways to reinforce learning is by using task cards! Kids get concentrated practice in a format they love! Besides using them as centers, playing Scoot, or doing a scavenger hunt (where cards are placed around the room and kids walk around solving them) it's especially fun to pair the task cards with a board game. Find out more details about how to add board games to your task cards set here: How to Use Task Cards with Board Games

Here are some of my favorite task cards for area and perimeter and their links:

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