Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students first explore the concept of surface area by playing with common three dimensional objects manipulatives. Next, they’ll watch the BrainPOP movie Surface Area and explore the other features in this topic to learn how to calculate surface area. Finally, students then apply their understanding by figuring the least amount of wrapping paper they need to wrap different objects.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore 3D objects and discuss their findings.
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie and explore resources about surface area.
  3. Calculate surface area of 3D objects to identify least amount of wrapping paper required to gift wrap each object


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Household 3D objects (examples: cereal box, Toblerone box, cylindrical oatmeal container)
  • Rulers
  • Wrapping paper, tape, scissors (optional)


  • Preview the movie Surface Area to plan for adaptations. 
  • Cut boxes and containers along a few edges so they stay together but are easily unfoldable
  • Put the partially cut boxes and containers on display or in work stations

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Invite students to play with the different boxes and containers. Encourage them to unfold them to see the different surfaces they are made up of. Make rulers available so they can measure them, too, if they’d like.
  2. As students explore, have them jot down their observations in a notebook. Encourage them to measure the different sides. They may notice, for example, that the oatmeal container is made up of a rectangle and two circles or that the two ends of a cereal box have the same measurements. After students have had an opportunity to explore, bring everyone together to share what they found. Write their observations on the whiteboard or other display.
  3. Project the BrainPOP movie Surface Area on the whiteboard. Read aloud, or have a volunteer read the summary that appears below the movie player. Before watching the movie, ask students different reasons someone might want to know the surface area of an object. Allow them to share ideas. 
  4. Now show the movie Surface Area to the whole class on the whiteboard. Turn on the closed caption option to aid in comprehension. Pause for key concepts and discuss their meaning. You may also use the Surface Area Discussion Prompts and Pause Points while watching the movie.
  5. After the movie, ask students again why we might need to know an object’s surface area. Remind them that in the movie, Moby and Tim were trying to figure out the least amount of wrapping paper they need for different objects. Can they think of other reasons?
  6. Now divide the class into pairs. Distribute to each pair one or more 3D object. Also distribute wrapping paper, tape, and scissors. Instruct students to calculate their object’s surface area. Then have them determine, measure, and cut the least amount of wrapping paper they’d need to wrap the object. Then have them wrap the object. Were they successful? If not, have them assess what they did wrong.
  7. As a concluding activity, challenge students to complete the Worksheet activities.