How Thick Is a Soda Can I?

This How Thick Is a Soda Can I? lesson plan also includes:

The humble soda can gets the geometric treatment in an activity that links math and science calculations. After a few basic assumptions are made and discussed, surface area calculations combine with density information to develop an estimation for the thickness of the walls of the can. A great activity for developing measurement intuition, with the familiarity of the objects supporting the calculations in the metric system.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas

  • Provide different densities of material to further develop the relationship between thickness and density
  • Have the class propose different shapes for soda cans, using the same amount of raw aluminum material
  • Suggested extensions include finding dimensions and mass of an actual soda can, and further investigating the assumption that the can is a cylinder
Classroom Considerations

  • Providing density in English units would remove the unit conversion portion of this problem
  • If units are left in metric, converting between magnitudes (mm to cm for example) might need more careful treatment than the answer key gives
Pros

  • Clear discussion of simplifying assumptions
  • Multi-step process pulls together unit conversions, surface area, and density considerations
  • Great use of common materials as the basis for calculations
Cons

  • Teacher notes and answer key not clearly separated from the class activity
Common Core