Cubic Metre - Build a Cubic Metre in Your Classroom to Give Students an Idea of How Big They Really Are

Cubic Metre
( a lesson to aid visualisation )

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As a class construct a cubic metre from newspaper and masking tape.cubic metre lesson

People are often amazed at just how big a cubic metre is. esp those raised on a steady diet of text book exercises.

What you need:

Lots of Newspaper, some masking tape and lots of team work.

Initial Demonstration - tightly roll a sheet of newspaper into a long cylinder by rolling it corner to corner.

cubic metre lesson

Masking tape it so it stays together. The properties of the paper change so it becomes strong and rigid. The paper can now be used as a construction simple construction material.

cubic metre lesson


1. Demonstrate and practise rolling the newspaper into long, tight sticks.
2. Use a small piece of masking tape to prevent the paper from unfurling. (You will need to experiment with where to place the tape & how much to use).
3. Test several of the initial 'sticks' to see which will be good to construct with. (I've found the tighter wound the better)
4. Explain that each group will be given 30 minutes to create a square EXACTLY one metre
by one metre. The square must have an X shaped brace included to ensure the shape always
remains square.

cubic metre lesson

5.Split the class into 6 groups, one group for each face of the cube.
6. Groups construct their face.
6. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth select one group to bind each square face so they form a single cubic metre. (I find it works best if the teacher has a bit of input at this stage)
7. Display the cubic metre by hanging it from the roof for all to see.

Helping Out With the Group Work

Discuss Subtasking - Makes for efficient task completion. This can be done before, during or after the session.

Personally I tend to do the chat about sub-tasking when the fights start breaking out. Even going as far as to assign the group rolls.


someone to measure
each person rolls a certain amount of sticks
people to hold
people to use the tape

(Often the group work skills are the most important things students take away from this activity)

A cubic metre is much bigger & heavier than you would initially think. Explore how much.

Ideas to Explore the Concept of Cubic Metres

- estimate how many 1st graders will fit in a cubic metre.
- test how many 1st graders will fit in a cubic metre
- estimate how many cubic metres would cover the floor of your classroom.
estimate how many cubic centimetres in a cubic metre?
- work out how to calculate how many cubic metres will cover the floor of your classroom.
- estimate how many cubic metres would fill your classroom
- calculate how many cubic metres will cover your classroom floor
- If a swimming pool was 2 metres deep, 100 metres long and 5 metres wide. How many cubic metres of water will it hold.
- How many cubic centimetres are in a cubic metre?
- If 1 cubic centimetre of water ways one gram, how much does a cubic metre of water weigh.

- If you swim 2 metres below the surface what is the approximate weight of the water above you?
- If the bottom of the cubic metre is 100cm by 100cm, how many cubic centimetres would it take to cover the bottom of the cubic metre.

Write Signs with questions and findings about cubic metres then stick these to the outside of the cube.

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