Back to School Ideas Cool Math Games: The Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

Published on January 21st, 2015 | by Julie Finn

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Cool Math Games: The Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

You can help your kids understand the complex concept of volume by playing cool math games!

Cool Math Games: The Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

The concept of volume can be overwhelmingly abstract, if you’re a kid having to learn it through worksheets. All those little three-dimensional diagrams with their tidy measurements–could it be any less relevant to real life?

This cool math game is a building challenge that will get the kids using their minds and their bodies as they first construct their own large structure out of newspaper, then measure it and calculate its volume. It’s a real-life exercise that will make the concept of volume stick.

Here’s how to go about it.

Cool Math Games: The Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

You will need:

1. lots of newspaper. We take the paper, so we’re always saving up our back issues for lasagna gardening and craft projects. If you’re in a classroom or club setting, this is a great supply to solicit from parents.

2. masking tape. You’ll need small pieces of this to build the newspaper columns, and the kids will need more of it to create their structures.

3. scissors, pencils, paper, and yardsticks. Make sure that the kids have ample supplies for note-taking, calculating, and modifying their creations.

Cool Math Games: The Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

Cool Math Games: Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge1. Spend time building the newspaper columns. Follow my tutorial for making large-scale newspaper structures, and definitely make the effort to create a lot of these columns, so that the kids won’t have to stop and wait for more to be created in mid-process. Again, this is a great activity for parent volunteers to do at home or during a parent work day, as these newspaper columns are a handy supply to have on hand for all sorts of projects.

2. Set up the build challenge. The first part of this activity is a build challenge, and it’s plenty engrossing enough to be a lesson unto itself, especially if the kids have a safe space to leave their completed structures until another time.

Challenge the kids to build a freestanding, structurally sound cube using only newspaper and masking tape. Each cube will obviously need twelve columns for its lines, but your little out-of-the-box thinkers will discover for themselves that they’re also going to need braces, crosspieces, support struts, and lots of other engineering-type thingies that they’ll already know all about by the time they meet them formally, thanks to this activity.

If you lay out the scissors and yardsticks, as well, the kids will also discover for themselves that cutting the newspaper pillars to size will aid their building technique.

The kids will want to use more masking tape than they need to during this challenge, laboring, as they do, under the delusion that more stickiness will solve all of their problems. They’ll figure it out for themselves, eventually, but if you’d like to curb waste, you can mention to them that you’d like them to use as little tape as possible. My kids ignore me when I say this, but your kids are probably better behaved.

3. Measure the volume. With these real-life, large-scale cubes in front of them, kids can now get real practice in measuring volume.

Cool Math Games: Newspaper Structure Volume Challenge

They can measure the volume of the cube that they created, or you can give them a volume, and challenge them to build a cube of exactly the correct size. If you’ve got the storage and display space, you can also let the kids cover the cube with newspaper to make sides, paint and decorate it, label the edges, vertices, and length and width and height, and set it out as a visual reminder.

Not us, though–our newspaper cube was Godzilla-stomped and sent to the recycling bin, and then there was much sword-fighting done with the leftover newspaper pillars.

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



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