6.05 Volume of rectangular prisms

Lesson

The volume of a three dimensional shape is the amount of space that is contained within that shape.

A quantity of volume is represented in terms of the volume of a unit cube, which is a cube with side length $1$1 unit. By definition, a single unit cube has a volume of $1$1 cubic unit, written as $1$1 unit3.

1 unit cube has a volume of 1 unit3.

The image below shows a rectangular prism with length $5$5 units, width $3$3 units, and height $2$2 units. Notice that the length of each edge corresponds to the number of unit cubes that could be lined up side by side along that edge.

How many unit cubes fit within this shape?

We can find the number of unit cubes that could fit inside the rectangular prism by taking the product of the three side lengths. This gives $5\times3\times2=30$5×3×2=30, so there are $30$30 unit cubes in the prism, which means it has a volume of $30$30 unit3.

Exploration

Use the sliders to change the length, width, and height of the rectangular prism. Consider the questions below.

1.  Why do you think all of the unit cubes in the base are shown?
2. If we count the number of unit cubes in the base, how can we use the height to get the total volume (number of unit cubes)?
3. What product could we use the find the volume?

Volume of a rectangular prism

In the same way that the area of a two dimensional shape is related to the product of two perpendicular lengths, the volume of a three dimensional shape is related to the product of three mutually perpendicular lengths (each of the three lengths is perpendicular to the other two).

Volume of a rectangular prism

The volume of a rectangular prism is given by

$\text{Volume }=\text{length }\times\text{width }\times\text{height }$Volume =length ×width ×height , or

$V=l\times w\times h$V=l×w×h

Exploration

Use the three sliders for length, width, and height to see how changing these affect the rectangular prism. Click the boxes to see the formula and volume revealed.

A cube can be thought of as a special type of rectangular prism, one that has all sides equal in length. The formula for the volume of a cube is similar to the formula for the area of a square.

Volume of a cube

The volume of a cube is given by

$\text{Volume }=\text{side }\times\text{side }\times\text{side }$Volume =side ×side ×side , or

$V=s\times s\times s=s^3$V=s×s×s=s3

Worked examples

Question 1

Find the volume of the following rectangular prism.

Think: The side lengths have units of cm, so the volume will be in cm3.

Do: The base of the prism has a width of $2$2 cm and a length of $7$7 cm, and the height of the prism is $9$9 cm. We will use these sides in the formula for the volume of a rectangular prism.

 $\text{Volume }$Volume $=$= $\text{length }\times\text{width }\times\text{height }$length ×width ×height (Formula for the volume of a rectangular prism) $=$= $7\times2\times9$7×2×9 (Substitute the values for the length, width, and height) $=$= $126$126 (Perform the multiplication to find the volume)

So this rectangular prism has a volume of $126$126 cm3.

Question 2

The local swimming pool is $25$25 m long. It has eight lanes, each $2$2 m wide, and its depth is $1.5$1.5 m. What is the volume of water in the pool?

Think: The water in the pool is in the shape of a rectangular prism, so to find its volume we need to find the side lengths of this prism. The length and depth of the pool are two side lengths we can use. The final side length is found by multiplying the number of lanes by the width of each lane.

Do: First we calculate the width of the pool using the width of each swim lane: $8\times2$8×2 m $=16$=16 m. Next we use the formula for the volume of a rectangular prism.

 $\text{Volume }$Volume $=$= $\text{length }\times\text{width }\times\text{height }$length ×width ×height (Formula for the volume of a rectangular prism) $=$= $25\times16\times1.5$25×16×1.5 (Substitute the values for the length, width, and height) $=$= $600$600 (Perform the multiplication to find the volume)

So the water in the pool has a volume of $600$600 m3.

Reflect: Even though the volume formula uses the terms "length", "width", and "height", when referring to everyday objects it may be more appropriate or more common to use alternative words like "width", "depth", or "thickness". In this example, we could just as well have used the formula $\text{Volume }=\text{length }\times\text{width }\times\text{depth }$Volume =length ×width ×depth .

Units

We use special units to describe volume, based on the notion of cubic units described above.  Because the units for length include millimeters, centimeters, meters and kilometers we end up with the following units for area.

Units of Volume

cubic millimeters = mm3

(picture a cube with side lengths of $1$1 mm each - that's pretty small!)

cubic centimeters = cm3

(picture a cube with side lengths of $1$1 cm each - about the size of a dice)

cubic meters = m3

(picture a cube with side lengths of $1$1 m each - what could be this big?)

Before we start a question, it is important to check that all of the sides are in the same unit. If they aren't, then we should convert them to the same unit.

Practice questions

Question 3

Find the volume of the rectangular prism shown.

Question 4

Find the volume of the cube shown.

QUESTION 5

A box is $1$1 m long, $20$20 cm high and $30$30 cm wide. What is the volume of the box in cubic centimeters?

Outcomes

6.G.A.2

Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths by packing it with unit cubes of the appropriate unit fraction edge lengths, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths of the prism. Understand and use the formula v = b · h, where in this case, b is the area of the base (b = l x w) to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with fractional edge lengths in mathematical problems and problems in real-world context