Area and perimeter are two key concepts that students learn in 4th grade. These are foundational elements that students will need to know as they move on to more advanced topics. After all, how can you develop algebraic equations to find the area of a square if you aren’t quite sure what area means to begin with?
You have the power to make math fun, which will make these concepts memorable. Here are a few engaging ways to introduce area and perimeter to your 4th-grade class.
1. Decorate Your Classroom With Math Concepts
It’s always frustrating for a teacher when you introduce a concept in one chapter and your students forget it by the next. It’s time-consuming to reinforce ideas that students didn’t master the first time. Fortunately, you can create little cheat sheets in your classroom through fun decor.
Look around the room and identify different math concepts that you can highlight. For example, the window pane in your class is the area of a rectangle, while the window frame surrounding it is the perimeter. You have all kinds of shapes, angles, and visual cues in the room that relate to valuable math concepts.
If you need a theme for your classroom this year, consider designs that highlight how math is all around you. This way your students will continuously be reminded of math ideas, even when you move on to a new subject.
Image credit: Miss Hutchison's Class Videos
2. Break Down the Words
While classroom decorations are helpful if your students stay in the same room, they won’t always be available whenever your students need them. One way for students to remember these differences outside of the classroom is to teach them visual tricks to play with the words.
One teacher at Differentiate Teaching highlights the word RIM hidden in peRIMeter. This provides a clue to students that they can use this concept to calculate the rim or border of the shape. Students can also color in the As and Rs of AReA. This is because you use the area to find the inside space of a shape.
Whenever a student takes a test, they can use these visual clues to understand what the question is asking and how to solve the problem.
3. Review Similarities and Differences
The concept of similarities and differences can also serve as a theme for the entire year. Almost any two concepts have similarities and differences, whether you are talking about area and perimeter, oceans and lakes, classical music and rock, or two different students. Not only can this help with social-emotional learning, but starting each lesson by reviewing the similarities of a new concept with something they learned previously can give them touchpoints for familiarity. It can make new ideas seem less scary.
What are the similarities between area and perimeter? Both are forms of measurement and help us better understand shapes. Both use concepts like length and height, along with different units of measurement. However, there are also differences. Perimeter measures the outside of a shape, while area measures the inside. Perimeter often uses addition, while area requires the use of multiplication.
Your students might be confused by these two concepts at first, which is why it is worth your time to review their differences in detail.
4. Get Crafty With Colorful Squares
Another way to engage students in the differences between area and perimeter is to get crafty. Depending on your students, you can either find a ream of graph paper or look for larger poster boards that are divided into even squares.
Challenge students to create a singular drawing that takes up a certain number of squares. From there, students can answer questions about the area and perimeter of their creation. One student might make a rectangular dragon that breathes square fireballs. Another student might create an angular superhero with a triangle cape. Crafting is a great way to teach students how to apply these concepts to shapes outside of the standard square, rectangle, and triangle word problems.
5. Bring Food Into the Classroom
If your students perk up any time there are snacks present (which they most likely do) then you know how effective food can be at engaging students. A fun snack break – even one tied to a lesson – can provide a much-needed treat for 4th-grade learners.
There are multiple ways to bring food into the classroom depending on your means and the resources of the students. You can ask kids to bring in a favorite snack to highlight area and perimeter. Some students might bring jelly beans that they form into shapes, while other students want to work with cheese puffs.
If you worry that some students might not be able to bring food in – and you don’t want to remind them of that – consider picking up a few boxes of cheese crackers or marshmallows that are affordable in bulk. You can hand out the snacks (allergy-permitting) and walk students through the lesson, letting them play with their food to form different shapes.
6. Find Math in Unexpected Places
Students love leaving the classroom, whether they are taking a field trip across town or simply heading down the hall. One way to teach area and perimeter is to bring students on an unexpected journey through the school to solve important problems.
When students are away for lunch or an elective period, break out blue painter’s tape and create a unique shape in the hallway. This is the starting point. You can create multiple oblong shapes throughout the school and even some outside. (If you need more time, you may want to do this project at night before students arrive the next day.)
Once your shapes are complete, you can lead your students through a scavenger hunt through the school to solve area and perimeter problems related to the shapes you made. You might be able to break your students into small group teams if you have a teaching assistant and other personnel willing to help you. Solving each problem can unlock a clue to help students find a final treasure or win a sweet victory against their peers.
Look for Digital Resources Like eSpark to Make Learning Fun
There are dozens of ways to help your 4th-grade students remember area and perimeter, but they all have one similarity. Each task is built to engage students, spark their curiosity, and present the information in a way that they will remember long after they leave your classroom. At eSpark, we have the same goals, which is how we develop our activities.
We offer multiple challenges and quests related to area, perimeter, and similar math concepts. If students don’t like the activity we create, they vote against it and we use that feedback in designing our curriculum.
Check out the activities at eSpark and see if they can improve your classroom experiences. You may find adventures that turn dry math concepts into memorable lessons.