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Paper Planes, Areas and Perimeters (Investigation)



  • To practice measuring in real life situations.
  • To work with perimeter and area in an interactive way.
  • To practice comparing data.


  • Paper (unlined)
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Lined graph paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Crayons or markers
  • Stopwatch
  • Colored tape
  • Scissors 

Designing your airplane

Tracing the Outline

  1. Think of a paper airplane design you think will be most successful and use your piece of unlined paper to create it.
  2. You can use your crayons or your markers to decorate your plane however you would like.
  3. Once you have completed your airplane trace the outline of your wings onto your graph paper.
  4. Shade in the outline of the wings on the grid paper.

    Shaded Wing

  5. Do the same thing for the body of the airplane.

    Outline of the Body

Pre-investigation Questions

  1. Find the area of each of the wings and the body of your plane using the graph paper. Record all of your answers.
  2. What units do you think would be most appropriate to measure the sides of the wings and the sides of the body?
  3. Use the units you have chosen to be most appropriate and measure the sides of the wings and the sides of the body. Record all of your measurements.
  4. What is the perimeter of your plane wings? What is the perimeter of your plane body? Can you use this information to find the perimeter of your whole airplane? If yes, what is it?
  5. Brainstorm some factors that could cause you to have different results each time you throw your airplane. Make sure you account for these factors when testing your plane. You want to keep as many factors constant throughout your trials as you can so your data is reliable.

Test your plane!

  1. Use your colored tape to mark the spot where you will stand on the floor.
  2. Stand on the tape you have just put down and throw your airplane. Be sure to use the stopwatch to time how long your plane stays in the air.
  3. Record the amount of time your plane was in the air.
  4. Use the tape measure to measure the distance from the tape where you stood to where the airplane landed. Record that as well.
  5. Repeat this 6 times.

Post-investigation Questions

Compare with a Friend!

  1. Whose plane went farther? If you used different units than your partner be sure to convert to the same units as them before comparing.
  2. Whose plane was in the air longer?
  3. Now compare and contrast the areas and the perimeters you found previously of your plane’s wings and body. What do you notice?
  4. Could your observations be related to whose plane went farther and whose plane was in the air longer? How?
  5. Whose airplane design was most effective? Why?
  6. What do you think would happen to your plane design if you made the size of your wings larger? Explain.
  7. What do you think would happen if you made the size of your plane’s wings smaller? Explain.
  8. What do you think would happen if you changed the size of your plane’s body? Explain.
  9. If you were to remake your plane how would you improve it?


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