How To Run a 3D Maths Test in Google Sketchup

As some of you may be aware I have been teaching a maths unit this semester, which although is out of my usual subject area of Phys Ed, Is probably shaping up to be one of my favourite classes. The unit is called ‘Space and Measurement’ and basically focuses on teaching perimeter, area and volume with a really strong emphasis on making the lessons hands on. With that last point in mind Ive tried to steer clear of the traditional approach to teaching maths and have moved towards running activities that get my students outside the classroom walls measuring and practising their maths skills in real world situations. 

I’ve also introduced a variety of tools into the class such as Google Earth Nintendo DS and more recently Google Sketchup.  The later tool has shown excellent potential in teaching a unit such as ‘Space and Measurement. For those unfamiliar Google sketchup  basically it is a FREE software that you can use to create 3D models of anything you like.  On first glance you think that it would be extremely hard to use, but it has been designed so that people of all skill levels can use it effectively. After a couple of lessons completing some of the ‘New User Tutorials’ that can be found on youtube your students will be able to build some really cool models. Given my students are now up to this very point, I will be completing a variation to a Maths test inside Google Sketchup that will test their knowledge and understanding of area, perimeter and volume. Here is the idea;

  1. Using Google Sketchup I will design a variety of 3D shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles and composite shapes.
  2. All of the shapes will be scattered across the modelling surface and be labelled with numbers.
  3. The sketchup file will be saved and students will be given a copy along with a worksheet with numbers matching the amount of shapes
  4. They will then need to use the ‘tape measure’ tool to measure the different shapes inside Google Sketchup and based on these measurments work out the perimeter, area and volume of the shapes recording their answers on the worksheet.
  5. Still not sure ? Checkout the video below for a run through of first 4 steps

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So what do you think? Does this idea have merit and would it allow my students to demonstrate their understanding of perimeter, area and volume in a more meaningful and engaging way?


9 thoughts on “How To Run a 3D Maths Test in Google Sketchup”

  1. Absolutely brilliant idea!!!

    Please keep us posted about how your student enjoyed this lesson. Can you shasre your actual lesson plan/rubric/source docs with us as well. Would love to try it in one of my teacher classes. I ahve wanted to play with sketup for some time now so you have just given me the motivation to do so! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks! I’m passing this along to a teacher in our district who is looking for area/perimeter instructional tools for his modified program class. I’m thinking that Google Sketchup should take its place on the maths student’s desk beside Geometer”s Sketchpad, Graphing Calculator, Computer Algebra System, Wolfram Alpha, and browser.

  3. Great point, however by the very fact the students would be responsible for measuring the different sides of the shapes necessary to work out the areas they would have to understand and demonstrate their knowledge of area/perimeter/volume etc. For example is they were asked to work out the area of a rectangle obviously they would need to measure both the length and the width, if they needed to work out the volume of a cylinder they would need to measure the appropriate sides etc for that to be correct. If they didnt have any idea, they would get the incorrect answers regardless of how well they understood how to use the software.

  4. Fantastic Idea, would certainly work as an excellent extension to the test, thanks. I’m also thinking that the kids could be involved in making an accurate 3D model of one of the school buildings that would require them to take real world measurements and create them to scale in Sketchup.

  5. This is a fantastic idea! Particularly in a school with 1:1 access, it would make those abstract 3D block drawings obsoloete! Now the students can walk around the object and visualize it.

    How about a possible extension? If you can find the source files for objects in SketchUp (such as the Tower of Pisa students could estimate surface area, perimeter, volume, etc. of famous buildings and landmarks.

    Again, brilliant idea!

  6. Jarrod,

    I like the idea, but you are going to have to be really confident that you are assessing their content knowledge rather than ability to use the software. Perhaps offering it as an alternative to the standard test?

    I also assume this is for Y8 judging by content?

    I really think you have hit on a tool that encourages exploration and experimentation (oops that would be some e’s)


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