Lesson 1

What Is Volume?

Lesson Purpose

The purpose of this lesson is for students to understand that solid objects have measurable attributes. Volume is one of these attributes and is defined as the amount of space an object takes up.

Lesson Narrative

In previous grades, students learned that they can count the number of square tiles that cover a plane shape without gaps or overlaps to find the area of the shape. In this lesson, students explore the concept of volume as they build and compare objects made of cubes. Students learn that objects can have different shapes but still take up the same amount of space and that we call this amount an object’s volume.

In the next lesson, students learn that volume is measured in cubic units and use unit cubes to find the volume of different objects. This work builds a conceptual understanding of volume before the introduction of formal ways to calculate the volume of rectangular prisms.
In lessons with images of objects made of cubes, students may question if the objects are missing cubes they can’t see. In these cases, tell students to assume the objects, including prisms, are completely packed with cubes.

Consider taking a community walk and noticing buildings and objects that are shaped like rectangular prisms in the community where your student’s live. In future lessons, you can display a list of these building and objects and ask students to add to the display.

Math Community

Prepare a space, such as a piece of poster paper, titled “Mathematical Community”​ ​and a T-chart with the headers “Doing Math”​ ​and “Norms.” Partition each of the columns into two sections: students and teacher. The two sections encourage the students and teacher to be mindful that both respective parties are responsible for the way math is done in the classroom.

Math Community Chart
  • Representation
  • MLR2

Learning Goals

Teacher Facing

  • Explore volume by building objects with unit cubes and comparing them.

Student Facing

  • Let’s build and compare objects made of cubes.

Required Materials

Materials to Gather

Materials to Copy

  • Isometric Dot Paper Standard

Required Preparation

Activity 2:

  • Each group of 2 needs 24 connecting cubes.
  • Have copies of centimeter dot paper available for students who would like to try drawing their objects.

CCSS Standards


Building Towards

Lesson Timeline

Warm-up 10 min
Activity 1 15 min
Activity 2 20 min
Lesson Synthesis 10 min
Cool-down 5 min

Teacher Reflection Questions

Who participated in math class today? What assumptions are you making about those who did not participate? How can you leverage each of your student’s ideas to support them in being seen and heard in tomorrow’s math class?

Suggested Centers

  • Can You Build It? (3–5), Stage 2: Multiple Rectangles (Supporting)
  • Can You Build It? (3–5), Stage 3: Rectangular Prisms (Addressing)
  • Capture Squares (1–3), Stage 7: Multiply with 6–9 (Supporting)

Print Formatted Materials

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Additional Resources

Google Slides

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PowerPoint Slides

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