Why do kids get the terms perimeter and area mixed up? As an adult, it seems so easy to just remember perimeter and area have different meanings. The problem is, kids get them confused no matter how many times you explain the difference between perimeter and area. How do we solve this confusion as teachers? Easy! Hands-on practice and a lot of visuals.
Using Visuals to Teach Perimeter and Area
I like to use posters and interactive notebook entries with area written inside a box and perimeter written around the edge. I also have them circle “rim” in pe"rim"eter, we discuss what a rim is and then they draw a rim. Another visual I love is creating a bulletin board. You can write area in the middle and add students work. Write perimeter around the bulletin board and work where students found the perimeter of items.
Hands-on Activities to Teach Perimeter and Area
Hands-on activities are also a great way to help students understand the difference between area and perimeter. Check out some of the activities we do in class that help these concepts stick!
Create rectangles on the ground using painter’s tape. If you have a tiled floor they can use the tiles to measure, if not they can use rulers. Have them record the area on a paper inside the rectangles and the perimeter on the tape going around the rectangle. This can be effective with irregular shapes too.
Use Cheeze-its or wheat thins and have the students create rectangles. Then they can find the area and perimeter by counting the crackers along the edges for perimeter and all the crackers to find the area.
Name Art- Have them write their names or initials on grid paper. Then find the area and perimeter of each.
Real-World Application- Have students measure items in the room to find the perimeter and area.
Picture Frames- Buy some inexpensive picture frames. Tell the students to find the amount of ribbon they need to decorate the perimeter of the frame and the area of the picture that will go in the frame. Have them start by measuring the length and the width of the frame.
When Should We Start to Teach Perimeter and Area?
Students can start working on area and perimeter as soon as they start playing with blocks. Yes, primary grades should be using simple hands-on activities to practice perimeter and area to provide students with a stronger foundation. As students get older they will understand the difference between perimeter and area so when they have to solve math problems it will stick much faster! Understanding these two terms are important because geometry (like all math) builds on prior knowledge so understanding and applying perimeter and area in elementary school will lead to success in future math classes! Make it fun, add visuals, and use a variety of hands-on activities to make it stick!
Resources for Teaching Area and Perimeter (3rd and 4th Grade)