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Design a Deluxe Container

The Design a Deluxe Container project encourages both written and oral communication using terminology from geometry. It allows students to creatively design and figure the volumes of standard and non-standard solids. It ties geometry to business as it studies package efficiency, marketing strategies, product costs, and profit.


You'll need to have at least 8 spheres to be able to check to make sure that they all fit when grading the final project. I have made changes from year to year as to how many spheres need to fit into the container. I've used 5, 6, and 8 spheres to promote more creativity. These spheres are nothing but plastic ornaments that can open for easy storing. They are available at a much reduced cost at craft shops right after the holidays. Stock up on them when you find them. They do break and need to be replaced from year to year!

Each team is allowed only one sphere at a time, to encourage accurate measurements and good geometry reasoning during the construction phase. I suggest that you do not allow the spheres to be taken from your room if the measurement phase is important to you, because students will devise clever ways to obtain enough spheres to test their container before grading. Since most of the actual construction takes place in teams outside of the classroom, I encourage groups to be creative in their materials. Several teams have used papier mâché, old cereal boxes, poster board, scrap cardboard, fiberglass, and foam core board to create their containers. There is some shrinkage that occurs when papier mâché and fiberglass containers dry. You probably should mention this to students when discussing materials they can use. The containers must have a set volume so things like paper bags or nets will not work for this project.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: There is a wonderful activity in the March, 1997 Mathematics Teacher Magazine published by NCTM titled "'Can' Do" by Claudia Carter. It allows students to really explore packing cylinders and the concept of efficiency. This activity has three worksheets ready to copy and use in the classroom. It is a great exploration prior to the assignment of this project.


Depending upon the school where you work and the students in your classes, you may need to have access to computers with printers and/or a video camera with video tapes. Students use computers to word process their proposals to the boss. Access to a computer either at home or at school stresses the need for neat looking reports in the business world. Several teams have gotten very creative and actually gotten permission from a store to videotape on-site, but even the videos shot at school or at home have been an awesome part of the project. The teams can schedule times to videotape their commercials. Each team will need very short videotapes to record on, but realize that it may take several times to get a good commercial - just like in the movies! I do not recommend making one big video until after the final films have been finished. (One team could end up taping over another team's commercial by accident.)

Make sure that that teams use a video format in which you are able to preview the videos. VHS-C videos will require an adapter to be able to play them in a standard VCR. I have students present their video tapes (make sure to preview them first!) to the class along with their final container at the end of the project. They have fun explaining the geometry of their containers, their product, its efficiency and its cost.

[Container Project Home Page] [Evaluation]
[Student Containers] [Student Commercials]
[Teacher Notes]


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