Tiles and Toothpicks

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SWBAT: • Explain and demonstrate procedures in math class • List and explain group work expectations and roles. • Solve problems involving perimeter and area.

Big Idea

How can you describe this shape’s perimeter and area? Students review expectations and work together to solve problems about area and perimeter.

Do Now

7 minutes

See my Do Now in my Strategy folder that explains my beginning of class routines.

Often, I create do nows that have problems that connect to the task that students will be working on that day.  Today I want students to quickly review the classroom rules.  In order to save time, I may write the rules in for the students.

After a few minutes, we come together as a class.  I ask students what they did well about entering class and if there is anything they can improve on for tomorrow.  Then I ask students to share out what they think each rule looks like and sounds like.  

Find Someone Who...

10 minutes


  • I have one copy of “Find Someone Who…” for each student

I explain the task and the expectations for students moving around the room and interacting with each other.  I explain that when the timer goes off they need to stop and make their way back to their seats.  This is a fun way for students to get to know more about each other and it gives me an opportunity to learn more about students.

When students return to their seats we review the math answers.  I ask students if there were any categories that were difficult to fill.

Introduction to Toothpicks and Tiles

5 minutes


  • This lesson has been adapted from College Preparatory Mathematics, Core Connections, Course 1.  The lesson is “1.1.2: How does it change?”  www.cpm.org

Students have studied perimeter and area in fifth grade, so I quickly review the topics.  I explain that today we are going to use tiles to describe area and toothpicks to describe perimeter.  We go through the examples together.  A common mistake is that students confuse perimeter with area and vice versa.  If this occurs I review that we are using tiles as our unit for area, and toothpicks as our unit for perimeter.  Some students may struggle with 3c.  We go over it together and use 3a and 3b to support students’ ideas. 

Why are procedures important?

4 minutes

I ask students why procedures are important.  I want them to recognize that using procedures allows us use time efficiently and develop practices where everyone knows their role.  To prepare for their group work, I have students review the procedures and team roles.  Students need to fill in the blanks.  Today students will use upcoming birthdays to determine the team roles.  The person with the closest upcoming birthday will be the Resource Manager; the person with the next upcoming birthday will be the Facilitator, etc. 


Group Work Expectations

4 minutes


  • Before the lesson I use the data from the previous year to Create Homogeneous Groups of students.
  • I create a list of these groups to show students.

Students move their desks.  I show students their groups and students move to their new groups.  I call on students to read the Collaborative Learning Expectations.  I want students to understand how these expectations can help them get along and work well together.  I explain that they may experience challenges, but they have the support of their team members to help them.

Group Work

20 minutes


  • I adjust the directions on the Shape Cards so that students do not write their name on the cards.  This way other classes can reuse the cards.

I tell students that they need to read over the directions.  When everyone understands the task, the Reporter will raise his/her hand.  I will check in with the group and ask for a quick summary of the task and directions.  If I am satisfied that everyone understands what to do, I send the Resource Manager to get the cards, tiles, and scrap paper.

As students are working, I walk around and monitor student progress and behavior.  Students are engaging in MP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them and MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. 

As I walk around, I make positive remarks to group members about the great things I see them doing.  If a student is struggling with behavior I have him/her talk to me away from the students.  I check in with the student and ask the student to review the expectations and the task.

If a Resource Manager raises his/her hand to ask me a question, I ask if everyone in the group has this question.  If the answer is no, I leave the group to talk about it.

If groups are struggling with making matches with the cards I encourage them to build the shape with the tiles and use the model to help them.  If a group successfully completes the task they move on to work on the Extra Practice problems.

Closure and Ticket to Go

10 minutes


  • Before this lesson I type up the expectations that each class generated during the previous lesson.  I add those expectations to the homework document and print it out for each class. 

For Closure I ask students, “Which shape did your group match with Fact 2?”  I call on the Recorders/Reporters to share out their group’s thinking.  I ask students to reflect and share out what their group did well and what they think their group could improve on.  I chime in and voice a few observations that I made while watching groups.  I want to acknowledge positive behaviors and strategies that I observed.

I ask students to explain the ticket to go and dismissal procedure.  I preview the Homework assignment.  I will give students two days to complete the assignment. I pass out the Ticket to Go and students complete it independently.  I also pass out the HW Expectations.



When I started the Tiles and Toothpicks activity with my students, I realized that I wanted to create an easy way for the recorder/reporter to record the group’s work.  I quickly created this t-chart and gave one to each group. Unit 1.3 Recorder T Chart.jpg.  This allowed me to quickly scan group’s answers as I was walking around the room.  I collected these charts at the end of the lesson to see how groups did.

As an available accommodation I gave each group one vis-à-vis marker.  Since the cards were laminated, students could use the marker to count the tiles and toothpicks.  Only a few students used the markers, but these students really seemed to benefit from them as a way to keep track of their counting.

Lastly, here are the Unit 1.3 Homework assignments.  Each student received the homework assignment that featured the expectations he/she and their classmates generated in the R-E-S-P-E-C-T lesson.  Unit 1.3 HW Expectations 6A.docx Unit 1.3 HW Expectations 6C.docx Unit 1.3 HW Expectations 6D.docx