Measurement is such a fun unit to teach because it offers so many opportunities for real-world applications. One of my favorite concepts is area and perimeter because it is a unit full of hands-on activities, opportunities to move, and cooperative work. I like to select activities that make perimeter and area concrete for them. That being said, teaching perimeter and area isn't always easy.
Regardless of how many fun activities I plan, I find that many of my students struggle to differentiate the area from the perimeter. This is why it is critical I purposefully plan activities that give students a chance to solidify the differences between 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.
1. Use visual cues to differentiate perimeter from area.
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.
Students also draw a rectangle in their math journal 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.
2. Teach 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 when computing area until they get the hang them.
This really helps them distinguish the two early on because they are using different operations to solve.
3. Use color-coding
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 mean 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:
Area & Perimeter Cut, Paste, and Match – FREEBIE!
This activity offers students practice finding recognizing how to compute area and perimeter for squares and rectangles.
There are a total of 8 sets – 4 basic & 4 advanced. You can differentiate this activity by giving students fewer cards.
Students match a set of game cards to find sets of 4 cards that all describe the same quadrilateral. The set includes a beginner set and an advanced set.
The beginner set is perfect for students who may struggle with fact fluency. The advanced set requires students to compute with more challenging facts.
I use this activity as part of my small group reteach. My struggling learners review one set of cards with me during a guided mini-lesson. The second set is completed as a formative assessment. I have my students glue them to the sorting mat to make it easy for me to look for common misconceptions for reteaching.
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Area and Perimeter Task Cards
I use these task cards closer to the end of our unit. They are a great way to incorporate movement while I assess progress.
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 36 total task cards.
The cards vary in difficulty and also include some story problems that are similar to those seen on state assessments. The set is perfect to laminate and use year after year to assess students' mastery with area and perimeter.