Legos + Volume = Awesome! we just got home from seeing the Lego Movie and I just HAD to redo the title of this post.  Have you seen it?  Super cute!  Anyway...back to the regularly scheduled post.

Do you ever have an AWESOME lesson idea at home, plan it out, knowing it will be super fabulous, only to have it fall short when you actually implement it in class??   Yeah...that is what happened at the beginning of this week.

You see, I had this fabulous idea to have the kids construct buildings using the bazillion Lego bricks I had at home, then measure the buildings to find the volume of the entire thing.  Additive volume, measuring, problem solving....the whole shebang.  Awesome, right??

So I brought all of the materials into class, had the kids get into groups, explained what I wanted done, modeled it, and the kids were off.

Here is where it all melted down.  The kids were building crazy thing with so many different levels that when they eventually went to find the volume of the entire project, they would have been there for days.  The 45 minutes I gave them to think about what they were going to construct was probably the most stressful 45 minutes I have had all year.  I was roaming around putting out "building fires" all over the place, reexplaining, remodeling.  FINALLY, though, they understood, and we ended up with lots of buildings with lots of rectangular prisms that would be suitable for the math portion of the project.

Here are a few of the completed structures so you can get an idea of the format with which I wanted them to build.

From here on out, the project actually went smoothly and turned out pretty good.  So if you are still with me, I will explain how we finished it out. :)

The next day, we did a lesson on the various views of solid figures.  This helped them to visualize and see how their rectangular prisms all came together to form a complete figure.  They then had to draw the top, side, and front view of their buildings using sticky notes.

Day three, the students broke out the rulers and began measuring the lengths, widths, and heights of each rectangular prism within their structure.   It was up to each group to decide what to measure and which units to measure with (cm or mm.)  They were discussing, providing evidence to back up their thoughts, and working together.  They had to figure out the heights when there were hidden pieces and widths when part of one prism could possibly overlap another.  Some kids did try to take it apart, however I quickly stopped that from happening.  The amount of mathematical strategy talk that was happening on this day made my heart smile.  Those first day "this is the worst thing ever" thoughts were gone by now.

On Day four we worked to organize our findings to present it all.  I printed out a black and white picture of each building.  The kids color coded each rectangular prism and then wrote their work on little cards that were also color coded.  They mounted all pieces onto a piece of construction paper so that their math work was visually appealing to passerbys.

The last day of this project we discussed all of the problem solving strategies that we used during the course of the week.  I wish I had taken a picture of our white board because the strategies we brainstormed literally took up the entire board.  There were just SO many different things we did!  We:

* Used formulas
* Broke the larger problem into smaller, similar problems
* Used different math tools (rulers, pencils, etc...)
* Drew models
* Diagramed with labels
* Drew pictures of our thinking
* Made lists of all possible outcomes
* Discussed how to solve the problem

and many more things.  The kids were even a bit taken aback by all of the mathematical thinking processes that were taking place.  So I had them work together to write a paragraph explaining at least three math strategies they used and how the strategy was successful in helping them complete the project.

So there you have it.  Something that started out as an awesome idea, that turned not so awesome, but ended pretty awesomely (can I say awesome anymore?)  One tip I do have though is to use Duplo blocks, not actual Lego bricks.  The Legos were just too small to manipulate and much harder to create the solid rectangular prisms.  Duplos worked a lot better. 

What do you do to teach additive volume?  Any awesome projects?

Do you need even more lessons to teach your students all about volume?  Here are my fav "Volume in 5 Days" lessons to help you out!


  1. This is an awesomely awesome idea. I like that you ALL persevered throughout the entire project. Great problem solving involved. :)
    Fun in Room 4B

  2. I do think your volume lesson is amazing - very hands-on and engaging. I did this once - I gave each group the same legos and asked each group to build something in 15 minutes. Each group had something totally different. I've been thinking of doing this activity again since there are so many extension activities. Plus, it was very fun - don't you wish you invented Legos?

  3. I am excited and going to have a go at this. Thank you for persisting and sharing both your negatives and positives

  4. The results of stamina and determination! Kuddos! Smiles and stop by anytime!

  5. What you experienced showed your students perseverance and mathematical heroism. I wish that I had Legos at home, too, to do this in a few weeks when we cover this standard. Loved the movie, too!

    1. If you have unifix cubes, those would work well too. :)

  6. Love it - throughout the CCSS SMP - "persistence" on teacher's part as well! LOL. Thinking of what you 1st asked and what you then reshaped in your adaptation, how would your phrase what you want the students to create?

  7. I love this lesson! I was having the hardest time deciding how the heck I could teach volume to fifth graders during my clinical experience! Thank you for sharing your story and ideas!

  8. l love this idea! I am going to use it to fill some time at the end of our year. I think I will have students figure out the volume in BOTH U.S. Customary and Metric measurements. This will help in their conversion standards. Thanks for the idea! What grade do you teach? I teach 5th grade. Although I think legos may be a tad elementary for my grade, I also think they will love it!


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