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edited by Robert Panoff
published by the Shodor Foundation
supported by the National Science Foundation
This Java-based activity lets students manipulate a 3-D rectangular prism or triangular prism to explore surface area and volume. The geometric model is designed to help secondary students visualize the relationship of width, depth, and height in calculating and estimating volume/surface area.

This resource is part of CSERD (Computational Science Education Reference Desk), a portal of the National Science Digital Library. The Interactivate collection contains more than 200 standards-based activities, many of which have been classroom tested.

Please note that this resource requires Java Applet Plug-in.
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General Physics
- Computational Physics
- Measurement/Units
Other Sciences
- Mathematics
- Middle School
- High School
- Elementary School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
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Free access
© 2006 Shodor Education Foundation
geometry simulation, mass and volume, measurement simulation, measuring volume, polyhedron, volume simulation, volume simulator
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created February 1, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 23, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 29, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

9. The Mathematical World

9C. Shapes
  • 6-8: 9C/M7. For regularly shaped objects, relationships exist between the linear dimensions, surface area, and volume.
  • 6-8: 9C/M10. Geometric relationships can be described using symbolic equations.
  • 9-12: 9C/H2. When the linear dimensions of an object change by some factor, its area and volume change disproportionately: area in proportion to the square of the factor and volume in proportion to its cube. Properties of an object that depend on its area or volume also change disproportionately.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H3. The usefulness of a model can be tested by comparing its predictions to actual observations in the real world. But a close match does not necessarily mean that other models would not work equally well or better.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

Measurement and Data (K-5)

Geometric measurement: understand concepts of volume and relate volume to multiplication and to addition. (5)
  • 5.MD.3.a A cube with side length 1 unit, called a "unit cube," is said to have "one cubic unit" of volume, and can be used to measure volume.
  • 5.MD.5.a Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with whole-number side lengths by packing it with unit cubes, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths, equivalently by multiplying the height by the area of the base. Represent threefold whole-number products as volumes, e.g., to represent the associative property of multiplication.
  • 5.MD.5.b Apply the formulas V = l × w × h and V = b × h for rectangular prisms to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with whole-number edge lengths in the context of solving real world and mathematical problems.
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Record Link
AIP Format
, edited by R. Panoff (Shodor Foundation, Durham, 2006), WWW Document, (
CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume, , edited by R. Panoff (Shodor Foundation, Durham, 2006), <>.
APA Format
Panoff, R. (Ed.). (2008, June 29). CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from Shodor Foundation:
Chicago Format
Panoff, Robert, ed. CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume. Durham: Shodor Foundation, June 29, 2008. (accessed 15 December 2018).
MLA Format
Panoff, Robert, ed. CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume. Durham: Shodor Foundation, 2006. 29 June 2008. National Science Foundation. 15 Dec. 2018 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume}, Publisher = {Shodor Foundation}, Volume = {2018}, Number = {15 December 2018}, Month = {June 29, 2008}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%A Robert Panoff, (ed)
%T CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume
%D June 29, 2008
%I Shodor Foundation
%C Durham
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D June 29, 2008
%T CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume
%E Panoff, Robert
%I Shodor Foundation
%V 2018
%N 15 December 2018
%8 June 29, 2008
%9 application/java

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CSERD Interactivate: Surface Area and Volume:

Covers the Same Topic As Illuminations: Hay Bale Farmer

This standards-based lesson for grades 6-8 lets students calculate and compare volumes of cylinders and rectangular prisms using bales of hay as the common unit.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Illuminations: Cubes

This is a very simple Java applet in which students fill a box with cubes, layer upon layer, to visualize how volume is calculated in a rectangular prism.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As NCTM: Side Length, Volume, and Surface Area of Similar Solids

This is a simpler version of volume in rectangular prisms. Students manipulate two solid rectangles (shown side-by-side) to see the effect that even a small change in length/width will have on volume. Values are computed automatically in this applet.

relation by Caroline Hall

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