Teaching the volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres is all about the formulas. In the good old days the students didn’t have to memorize the formulas, but those days are gone. When my students practice using the formulas for volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres, we do a lot of practice focused on understanding the formulas. By the end of the two weeks, 98% of my students have memorized the formulas through a graphic organizer. Getting there, though, takes a lot of practice. And it helps if students practice in a variety of ways so there’s some novelty. So, I’m excited to share with you 11 ideas and resources to help your students practice with volume and absolutely own those formulas!
Teaching Volume of Cylinders, Cones, and Spheres
I used to dread this unit because it was very difficult for students. That was probably because I was focused on them getting the right answers instead of understanding the concepts. Over the past couple of years I’ve really had a shift in my mindset and approach, which honestly has made the biggest difference. The activities that I share in this post are based on the ideas of getting students to understand and use the formulas. Included in this list are anticipatory sets, practice activities, and a performance task. Here is the list of activities:
- 3 T-Chart Scategories
- Mini Discovery Lab for Circular 3D Shapes
- Fill-in shapes and compare
- Formula Chart
- Phineas and Ferb Video
- Coloring Activity
- Scavenger Hunt
- QR Code Game
- Knockout Game
- Three Act Math- Popcorn Picker
3 T-Chart Scategories
Scategories is a popular board game that lots of people have played. I have used Scategories with students during my whole teaching career. At the beginning of my teaching life I taught English Language Learners. A game like Scategories became one of my “go to” activities. It helped them think about all the words they had learned in a specific topic. I love that it can be adapted to so many topics.
How we play 3 T-Chart Scategories:
- Everyone draws a three column chart on their whiteboard and labels the columns cylinder, cone, and sphere.
- We set the clock for 3 minutes and everyone writes down examples of everyday items that are cylinders, cones, and spheres. They keep their answers secret as they write on their board.
- At the end of the 3 minutes we see who got the most points. Each students is competing against the teacher. The teacher reads her list and if students have any of the same examples, they have to cross them off their list. Players get one point for every example they have that the teacher doesn’t have.
- Students share their unique examples. A winner is declared. (I don’t have them battle everyone in the class because it can take a long time to go around and have every single person share all of their examples.)
Most of the students really get into this game. It is a great way to build background and kids love the opportunity to outwit the teacher. Usually, there are a couple of kids that definitely outwit me. This activity will definitely start your lesson off with getting students engaged.
Flocabulary Video for Formulas of Volume of Cylinders, Cones, and Spheres
Have you always wanted to incorporate music into the classroom? Flocabulary is a website that has animated music video that teach math concepts with hip hop songs. I find that kids will remember the song if you play it a couple of times and play over a few days. This particular Flocabulary song is about the formulas for volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres.
If some of your students struggle to remember the formulas this is another way to try and cement the formulas in their brains. Flocabulary has some activities for students to do while they listen. I like the one where they fill-in the blanks of the song. Just remember that with this activity you will have this song stuck in your head for a few days.
Mini Discovery Lab for Circular 3D Shapes
I use a lot of discovery learning in my class and if you want to read about my discovery lab for volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres, read this blog post. A couple of year ago I realized that some of my students weren’t really seeing the relationship between cylinders, cones, and spheres and circles. I made this short activity to get them to think about the relationship between a circle and these shapes. Click here to download this free activity.
Students are each given a circle and then with a partner they have to answer a few questions. I have included this activity as a freebie in this post. It is a 15 minute activity that gets kids talking and has a low barrier to entry. Students don’t have to do any calculations. It is really about making observations about the three shapes and their relationships to each other.
Fill-in plastic shapes and compare
This activity is the ultimate hands-on activity. I have always wanted to do this activity, but this year I actually tried it for the first time. Actually seeing the relationship between the volumes of a cone(one third of a cylinder) and a sphere(two-thirds of a cylinder) is hard to beat. We had some plastic cylinders, cones, and spheres in our resource closet and they all have the same radius. I knew that they would have a lot of fun filling these shapes up and comparing, so we filled them with water and students compared what happened.
Most of the groups did a really good job. One of the groups, of course, mostly just got water all over the table and did a lot of giggling, but the majority of them filled the cone and poured it into the sphere. They saw that it took two cones to fill the sphere. Then, they poured the sphere into the cylinder and saw that it was about ⅔ full. They poured in one more cone and concluded that the cylinder was three cones.
They seemed amazed that such a relationship exists. Also, they enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the experiment. I loved that they got to be hands-on and enjoyed watching them make connections. Next time, though, I think I’ll use a dry fill 🙂
The common core standards changed how we teach this standard. In our old standards students were given the formulas, but in the new ones they have to know the formulas. Some kids really struggle to memorize things. The formulas are complicated and if you just say, “Hey kids, memorize these three formulas,” you will surely have many students who can do it. But there will be others who struggle with that.
The activities so far focus on building a conceptual understanding of the formulas. This one, though, really focuses on memorizing the formulas. I like this activity because it is a graphic organizer which helps students organize and make sense of the information in these formulas. The best way we introduce and learn about this graphic organizer is through the discovery lab that you can read about here.
Graphic organizers are a way of life for me. This one in particular helps kids to keep the formulas organized. After filling this chart in every day for a week and talking about it with them, my students experienced a lot of success when they finally took the test.
Just about everyone writes the formulas down correctly on the test. I make sure I put them in a different order on the test. That means they really remember them and they aren’t just memorizing.
The keys that I emphasize with students about the chart are:
- All the formulas have V=, pi, and radius.
- 2 of them have a fraction. (remind them of the experiment where the sphere and cone were a fraction of the cylinder)
- 2 of them have r squared and h and the other one has r cubed.
- Sphere doesn’t have height in the formula because it has r cubed.
You can use this graphic organizer in whiteboard sleeves or have students put it into their interactive notebook. (I break down step by step how I use this graphic organizer to help students learn the formulas in this post.)
This is a short and cute video that you can use as a hook at the beginning of a lesson. It comes from a popular cartoon Phineas and Ferb, which some kids will get some kids interested right away. In the video they are trying to calculate the volume and a cylinder when hijinx ensues. It probably is not going to change students’ understanding of this concept, but it does get students interested in and talking about volume.
Some kids love to color and there are other kids that don’t care so much for it. Some teachers like to have kids color and others feel like it is a huge waste of time. I make coloring activities where the coloring part does not take a lot of time. All students do the coloring, but it usually only takes them 5 minutes. Coloring can give students a brain break.
I teach volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres one each day. The practice activity that I use for spheres is this coloring activity. When students are doing it I have them check there answers with me as needed. Usually, they check after they have finished one side of the page. When they finish, they color. Students stay engaged while they do this activity.
If you want to get your students out of their seats and working together, a scavenger hunt is the activity for you. I can’t talk about this type of activity enough. Kids who usually take a long time starting their work or who won’t participate with their partner seem to come out of their shell for this scavenger hunt.
I tape the problems around the room and in partners they have to solve each problem. After each question they come and get it checked with me. Either the first team finished with all correct answers or the team with the most done after a given amount of time wins.
This scavenger hunt focuses on finding the volume of cones. Each station, or sheet, has a picture of cones and cone like objects. With a partner students find the volume of the cones. I use this as practice on the day we focus on cones.
If you haven’t tried QR Codes on task cards or in games I would encourage you to try. They are those weird looking codes you might have seen on a can of soda or a sign. The cool thing about them is they are easy to make and use. If you want to know about using QR Codes in your classroom, check out this post with 5 ways to use QR codes in the math classroom.
Students can play against each other to see who gains the most points. The points are assigned to each question through a QR Code. Students love the mystery in finding out how many points they won if they got the question right. This activity works really well as a partner activity to practice finding the volume of cylinders.
You can get these three activities to practice with the volume of cones, spheres, and cylinders in one discounted bundle in our TPT store:
This game is perfect for whole class review before a test. It is played on the projector and is somewhat interactive because students choose pictures from a Taco Tuesday theme. Each picture has a question related to it. Every student completes every problem and each student gets points for the problems they get right. There is a variety of problem types in this game. This game will engage your students and help them to review the whole topic near the end of the unit or later in the year when you want to do cyclical review.
You may have seen this activity before. It is a great one because it makes kids’ heads explode (don’t worry- not literally). They are so confident about what is going to happen and then it doesn’t happen that way at all. I love when you get to challenge students’ schema and they start to see that not all things are as they appear.
In this activity they have to predict if the two cylinders made by a standard piece of paper have the same volume. It is a three act math problem so it is set-up like this:
- Introduce the problem.
- Answer some questions and make predictions.
- Make a list of information that would be helpful.
- Try to find the answer.
- See the results.
- There are some additional activities you can do with the same problem.
This problem helps students see the difference between surface area and volume. And if you do it like the three act math guy, then you can have a popcorn party with your students. Students love to have treats like popcorn and it makes solving the problem memorable.
Try One Thing…
We have shared a lot of ideas here and it might seem like too much. My challenge to people is always, “Try One Thing.” You don’t have to try and incorporate a whole bunch of new activities all the time in your class, but the students will really appreciate it if you play a new game or try a hands-on activity. Every time you try something new you add it to your tool box. Over time you will have so many tools to choose from.
Want a more in depth look at how I chunk out the learning for this topic & a free graphic organizer that helps soooo much? Head on over to this post!
Which game or activity are you going to try? Share your answers in the comments.
Join the Maze of the Month Club
Join to get exclusive free math mazes every month!