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Color Your World

Grades: 5-8
Author: Dr. Kathie Owens
Source: Original


In this lesson students solve a problem about painting the walls of a room. Dimensions of the problem include calculating the surface area to be painted, the cost of the paint and labor, and the amount of time expended. After students report their solutions, a new technology is introduced that would both save time and money. Besides this home decor example, other examples of this amazing advance in polymer films can be discussed after viewing the short video clip of Dr. Miko Cakmak, Professor of Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron.


What should students know as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will compare and contrast traditional and new technologies.
  • Students will compare a traditional way of changing the color of the walls of a room with one allowed by the use of a new technology.

What should the students be able to do as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will calculate surface area of a room.
  • Using cost of labor and paint, students will calculate the cost of painting a room.


Pencil and paper, access to the Internet, calculator.

To make scale models, students will need graph paper, rulers, tape/glue, tempera paint and brushes, newspaper and clean-up supplies.



Open the lesson by telling the following story: I have a cousin, Fickle Flossie, who can't make up her mind. When we go to a restaurant, she changes her order at least a dozen times before she decides what she wants to eat. Sometimes she changes clothes a dozen times a day. So, I knew there would be trouble when she bought her first house. Before she moved any furniture in she thought she'd better paint the walls. She hired her neighbor to do the job. But as you can probably guess by now, she had a hard time sticking with her choice of paint color for her bedroom. I need your help trying to convince Flossie that every time she changes her mind it's costing her a lot of time and money. Perhaps if she sees the amount of money it costs for each repainting, she won't change her mind so often. How much will it cost her if she chooses to repaint the room 5 times?

So, here's what you need to know about Flossie's bedroom: it is 12 ft. wide and 15 ft. long and has two doors and two windows. The windows are 44 inches wide and 47 inches long. Each door measures 32 inches by 80 inches. Her neighbor agreed to work for the current minimum wage.

What other information do we need to know?

Some guiding questions to ask the students; information can be found by searching the Internet: How much is minimum wage? What is the cost of paint? How many gallons of paint will be needed to cover the walls? About how long will it take to complete the job?

Assessment: Before proceeding to the problem solving portion of the lesson, be sure that the students understand the posed problem. Be sure that students know how to convert inches to feet and can find the area of rectangles. Be sure that students are skilled in finding information by doing searches on the Internet.


Group students according to the tasks required in this lesson. One group member will be researching information from the Internet, one will be drawing, one will be using a calculator, and one will be reporting the group's findings.

Students could build a scale model of Flossie's room using graph paper, rulers, tape/glue, and scissors. They could use tempera paint and brushes to cover the walls of their model to simulate the painting of Flossie's bedroom.

Assessment: Monitor the groups' work as they solve the posed problem. Be sure all are on task; answer questions as they arise.


Have groups report their findings after solving the posed problem. Report should include cost of paint and labor for five repaintings of Flossie's bedroom.

Assessment: Monitor the reports for accuracy and completion. Grade the report for accuracy of the calculations.


Share with the students a new technology that will allow the fickle Flossie folks the ability to change their mind at a moments notice to change the color of a wall or their cell phone. Dr. Miko Cakmak, Polymer Engineering Professor in the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron tells us a little about this new technology in the following video clip:

After showing the video clip, discuss the following with the students:

  • Compare the traditional procedure for changing the color of a wall to this new technology. What benefits to you see? What limitations? What liabilities?
  • What other uses can you pose for utilizing this new technology?

Assessment: Monitor the discussion for students' understanding of how technologies influence (benefit much, little, or not at all) our way of life. Will this new technology really solve Flossie's fickleness?


Familiarity with procedures for using a calculator, finding information on the Internet, and calculating surface area.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Real-Life Situations
  • Problem-Solving

Alignment with Standards

NGSS Standards:

  • MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, and transmitted through various materials.

Common Core Standards:

  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version ofthat information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.
  • WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

National Standards:

  • Science: Grades 5-8 Content Standard E
  • Mathematics: Grades 6-8 Measurement
  • Mathematics: Grades 6-8 Problem Solving
  • Mathematics: Grades 6-8 Connections

Ohio Standards:

  • Science Grades 6-8 Science and Technology Benchmark A
  • Mathematics Grades 5-7 Measurement Benchmark E
  • Mathematics Grades 5-7 Patterns, Functions and Algebra Benchmark J

Content Knowledge

Mathematics: Review of problem-solving to find the surface area of the walls of a room. Students will probably use the formula for finding the area of a rectangle: A = l * w. Students should calculate the area of the doors and windows and subtract these amounts from the total area of the four walls of the room.

Science: A new technology will be described in the elaboration portion of the lesson. Discussion should include the following points: technology has given us products that make our lives better; the results of scientific research translate into new technologies that are the product of engineers; there are positive and negative implications associated with new technologies; and, a new technology may have many product applications.


There are no safety concerns in this lesson as long as students are using paper and pencil to solve the posed problem. If the teacher assigns students to make a scale model of the room and use paint to cover the wall, then cautions using the materials should be discussed.


Examples of applications of flexible plastic electronics are given by Dr. Miko Cakmak, Polymer Engineering Professor in the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron in the video clip.


Write a brief letter to Flossie describing your findings and explaining how a new technology could meet her need to change the color of her bedroom frequently.

Imagine you have a cell phone that can change color. What colors would you choose for various people? Tell why you chose these colors.

Other Considerations

Grouping Suggestions: When grouping students place students according to the tasks required. In this lesson, one group member will be researching information from the Internet, one will be drawing, one will be using a calculator, and one will be reporting the group’s findings.

Pacing/Suggested Time: If a scale model of the room is not made and students solve the posed problem using pencil and paper, then two class periods should be sufficient. Including scale model building and applying tempera paint to the model into the lesson will extend the time required by at least one more day.

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