Lesson 11

Volume of Prisms

Lesson Narrative

In previous grades, students learned that the volume of a prism with whole-number edge lengths is the product of the edge lengths. Now they consider the volume of a prism with dimensions \(1 \frac 12\) inch by 2 inches by \(2 \frac 12\) inches. They picture it as being packed with cubes whose edge length is \(\frac 12\) inch, making it a prism that is 3 cubes by 4 cubes by 5 cubes, for a total of 60 cubes, because \(3 \boldcdot 4 \boldcdot 5 = 60\). At the same time, they see that each of these \(\frac12\)-inch cubes has a volume of \(\frac18\) cubic inches, because we can fit 8 of them into a unit cube. They conclude that the volume of the prism is \(60 \boldcdot \frac18 = 7 \frac12\) cubic inches.

By repeating this reasoning and generalizing (MP8), students see that the volume of a rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths can also be found by multiplying its edge lengths directly (e.g., \(\left(1 \frac12 \right) \boldcdot 2 \boldcdot \left( 2\frac12 \right) = 7 \frac12\)). They use this understanding to find the volume of rectangular prisms given the edge lengths, and to find unknown edge lengths given the volume and other edge lengths.

Problems about rectangles and triangles in the previous lesson involved three quantities: length, width, and area; or base, height, and area. Problems in this lesson involve four quantities: length, width, height, and volume. So finding an unknown quantity might involve an extra step, for example, multiplying two known lengths first and then dividing the volume by this product, or dividing the volume twice, once by each known length.

In tackling problems with increasing complexity and less scaffolding, students must make sense of problems and persevere in solving them (MP1).

Learning Goals

Teacher Facing

  • Apply dividing by fractions to calculate one edge length of a rectangular prism, given its volume and the other two edge lengths.
  • Explain (orally, in writing, and using other representations) how to solve a problem involving the volume of a rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths.
  • Generalize that it takes more smaller cubes or fewer larger cubes to fill the same volume.
  • Generalize that the volume of a rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths can be found by multiplying the edge lengths.

Student Facing

Let’s look at the volume of prisms that have fractional measurements.

Learning Targets

Student Facing

  • I can solve volume problems that involve fractions.
  • I know how to find the volume of a rectangular prism even when the edge lengths are not whole numbers.

CCSS Standards


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