I love teaching measurement to my students. One of my favorite concepts is area and perimeter because it lends itself to so many fun hands-on activities and lots of opportunities to move around and work cooperatively. It also helps that the students can apply the skill to their lives outside of school, making perimeter and area more concrete for them. However, teaching perimeter and area isn't simple.
Regardless of how many fun activities I plan, I find that many of my students struggle to differentiate the area of a shape from the perimeter. This makes it critical that I am planning enough activities to give students a chance to solidify these concepts.
In addition to thinking up fun ways to teach perimeter and area using hands-on experiences, I also like to give my students several strategies to help them differentiate between the two. Today I am going to share a few of these perimeter and area tricks with you.
Teaching area and perimeter so students REALLY get it
The strategies below are designed for teaching area and perimeter definitions and how to compute each using a multi-sensory approach.
Teaching perimeter and area using visual cues
It can be challenging to figure out how to explain area and perimeter to a child who hasn't had any exposure to the concepts. This is why I try to help students identify ways to differentiate the two. Providing a visual reminder can really make a huge difference in helping students recall the two terms and what they mean.
Here's how I use visuals to help make the terms stick:
As we work through the lesson, we record the word perimeter in our journals. However, we capitalize and bold the RIM to remind them the peRIMeter is the measurement of the outside “rim” of the shape.
They also draw a rectangle in their journals, and write the word perimeter going all the way around the outside…over and over again for my friends with small penmanship.
We also write AREA in our journals, and I let them color in the inside of the As and R to remind them the area is the inside. Then they go back to that rectangle they drew and write AREA as big as they can fit on the inside.
Teaching area & perimeter as different computations
Many of my kids realize that if all the sides are the same length they can multiply the length by the number of sides to get the perimeter.
However, for my struggling learners, I encourage them to always add with perimeter and always multiply with area until they get the hang them.
This really helps them distinguish the two because they are using different operations to solve.
Using color-coding to teach guide the process
Finally, if they are given a shape and asked to find the perimeter or area, I have them using colored pencils or crayons to help them.
If they are asked to find the perimeter, students outline the shapes. For questions that require them to find the area, students color in shape.
One tip I learned the hard way was to insist students use colored pencils or crayons. This makes it easy to see our work and prevents torn pages and messes from markers.
Practice makes perfect – Fun ways to teach perimeter and area
I also work hard to give my students TONS of activities and opportunities to practice both skills together and separately because the research supports that increased opportunities means increased learning (as long as I give meaningful feedback).
Here are a few of the resources that have helped me teach area and perimeter to my students:
These free area and perimeter activities are perfect for students as they work to build conceptual knowledge.
The set has students work through a card sort, where they practice matching the labeled shape diagram with the measurements and computations for area and perimeter.
There are a total of 8 sets. You can have students work to find the matches for all the sets or to differentiate for your struggling math students by giving them 3-4 sets (12-16 cards) rather than the 8 (32 cards).
I am also planning to use this in small group as a reteach and formative assessment. Those students who are struggling to master the concepts will review one set of the cards with me through a mini-lesson. Then they will take the second set of cards to complete as a formative assessment. They'll glue them to construction paper to make it easy for me to look for common misconceptions for reteaching.
HINT: Be sure to cut the cards in advance and keep a copy of the sheets for an answer key!
Task cards are a great way to get kids moving and gather formative assessment data (or even take grades).
The great thing is this can be an independent activity your students can complete while you are doing small group reteach. The only thing you'll need to do is set a timer for rotating.
I've also used these as a full-class review prior to our assessment, so they are definitely versatile.
The set contains both customary (standard) and metric unit measurements for 48 total task cards. Plus I built in some word problems to give my students a chance to see the type of story problem they may see on standardized state assessments.
What tips or tricks do you have for teaching perimeter and area to your students? Leave them in the comments below.