Computation and Estimation: Roll Out The Barrel

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this math lesson, learners apply mathematical modeling to solve a real-world storage problem, in which a manufacturing company is given two options for storing oil barrels. These options include a square storage unit and a rectangular storage unit (twice the area of the square unit). Learners must decide which of the storage units will provide the most inexpensive space to store 125 containers. Learners use 35mm film canisters and paper mats to model storage arrangements for each unit. Learners find that the arrangement of the cylinders in the storage unit affects the cost. Learners work in small groups, collecting data, performing necessary computations, and constructing reasons for their unit selection.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
    • Number and Operations
    • Reasoning and Proof
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Financial Literacy


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, PBS, 2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education