Contractor‘s Crisis
Primary Market
Education, Secondary Ed
Character Focus
Cooperation, Teamwork, Perseverance
Items Needed
1 Toobeez set, 1 set of instructions per student, 1 meter stick, 1 notebook per student, pen or pencil
The Activity Time
1 - 2 hours


  • Hone students’ problem-solving skills
  • Reinforce the principle of area
  • Introduce a real-world application of area
  • Practice measurement skills
  • Strongly reinforce cooperative teambuilding by seeking to meet prescribed requirements
Character Focus
Teamwork/Cooperation, Interactive Problem Solving & Perseverance
The Challenge

The class should be able to build a three-story house model according to specified requirements and calculate the money required to wallpaper and carpet all the rooms.


Setup Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 Toobeez set
  • 1 set of instructions per student
  • 1 meter stick
  • 1 notebook per student
  • pen or pencil
Activity Plan

Time: 1 – 2 hours

Instruction: Whole class and Individual

Space: Medium

Activity Setup

1. As a homework assignment the prior evening, students should be asked to research in newspapers or online for wallpaper and carpet pricing that appeals to them.

contractor-crisis12. To provide students with a starting point, teachers should construct a square using four 36” Toobeez tubes. Teacher Note: The multi-holed equator of the spheres should be in the horizontal position at each corner.

3. Teachers should prepare the following blueprint instructions in advance and make enough copies for one per student.

  • Each floor of the house is separated by 11” tubes
  • There must be at least two isosceles triangular rooms on the first floor
  • There must be two right-triangle-shaped rooms and one parallelogram-shaped room on the second floor
  • The top floor should consist of one large square roof garden with no walls
  • All walls and floors must be covered with wallpaper and appropriate floor surface coverings

Contractor’s Crisis Solution for teachers: (There are other potential solutions)

  • Between floors: The eight 11” Toobeez tubes are used to separate the three floors (as pictured above)
  • First floor: Insert three 24” Toobeez tubes into the corner spheres of the foundation square. Connect them together in the center of the sphere using a sphere. Teacher Note: This should create two isosceles triangles and one right triangle within the square foundation


  • Second floor: The foundation for the second floor should consist of eight 16” Toobeez tubes, with two per side separated by a sphere. The center sphere of one side should be connected to the center sphere of an adjacent side by a 24” Toobeez tube. contractor-crisis4In addition, parallel to this 24” tube, two additional 24” tubes joined by a sphere in the center should be inserted so that they connect two corners of the second floor model. This should produce a center room shaped like a parallelogram separating two right triangular rooms


  • Third floor: A square can be made of the remaining four 36” Toobeez tubes. No walls are required for the roof garden


Helpful Hints

  • Be sure to review these tips prior to beginning the activity, and if necessary, share reminders with the group during the activity.
  • Teachers should remind students to refer to the provided building blueprint often during the construction process
  • Review the equations for calculating the area of various geometric shapes
  • Remind students there is more than one potential solution

Activity Instructions

1. Read aloud the following Activity Challenge Box to the group.

Challenge: The class should be able to build a three-story house model according to specified requirements and calculate the amount of money required to wallpaper and carpet all the rooms.

2. Teachers should share the following scenario with the class:

  • You have been hired as contractors to build a house with the requirements listed in the building blueprint directives. Using the Toobeez set, build a model of the described house.

3. Teachers should inform the class that the provided structure from the “Activity Setup” will serve as the foundation for the first floor. No floor can be wider than the first floor.

4. Appoint two students, preferably more tactile learners, as builders to physically construct the model following cues provided by the class.

5. In an organized manner, students should be encouraged to make suggestions for the builders to meet the following blueprints. Teacher Note: Reinforce that all opinions are equally valuable.

6. After successfully building the blueprint model, have the class draw a floor plan layout for each floor in their notebooks. Teachers should also assign numbers to each room for easy identification and have students copy these numbers. Teacher Note: Remind students that there are three first floor rooms, three second floor rooms, and only one roof garden on the third floor that has no walls.

7. One student, the interior decorator, should measure, in inches, the floor dimensions area of each room and the outermost wall dimensions of the house model. Teacher Note: As there are no room dividing walls, wallpaper estimates will only be done on the outermost walls of the model house.

8. Students should be provided with a model conversion rate and informed that each inch in the house model equals 1 foot. (for example, 8.6 inches = 8.6 feet.)

9. Students should convert inch measurements into feet.

10. At their desks, students should calculate the floor area of each room and the area of each outermost wall in the model house.

11. Using their research homework on wallpaper and floor covering prices, students should calculate the amount of money required to cover the floor in each room and the amount required to cover each outermost wall

12. Students should add all these figures to calculate the entire cost for floor treatment and wallpaper

13. After the activity, gather the class together and ask the following question: “How can calculating the area of room surfaces be useful in house building and decorating?

14. Finally, move to the “Activity Discussion and Processing” section of the activity.


  • Have the students build various geometric shapes with Toobeez, take their measurements, and calculate the area of each example
  • Change the model conversion rate so that each inch measured is equivalent to 2 feet. (for example, 8.6 inches = 17.2 feet) Then, have students recalculate inches = 17.2 feet) Then, have students recalculate area and materials cost for the floors and walls

Activity Discussion and Processing

To close the lesson, end with a group discussion about what was learned during the activity. Circle up the group and work through the following questions. If possible, record the group’s responses on flip chart paper so all comments are displayed.

  • In calculating the surface area of a cube-shaped room, how many surface areas must you calculate to determine the surface area of the room? Teacher Note: Tricky one! Only one: They are all identical. This is an excellent extension question to discuss volume
  • If you owned a house, why might it be important to calculate room dimensions before decorating?
  • What additional real-world scenarios require the ability to calculate the area of various geometric shapes?
  • What steps in this activity require perseverance and cooperation?

Here are some additional topics for discussion:

  • The use of spatial reasoning to meet the blueprint’s specifications
  • The use of dimension measurements to calculate area
  • The use of spatial calculation to determine the cost of materials
  • The team effort used in constructing the house model

Here are available Training Options!

Activity Variations

1. A more crowded house.

Challenge the class to build a three-story house with more rooms than laid out in the original blueprint. Have them recalculate all the areas and materials cost and determine the effect on cost.

2. A more detailed design.

Review drawing scaled models. Split the class into groups and assign each group a particular room within the house model. On graph paper, help students draw a scaled floor model of their assigned room. For homework, students are to research room furnishings, both dimensions and cost. They should verify these furnishings can fit into their assigned room by drawing scaled representations of these furnishings within the drawn floor plan. Finally, students should calculate the total cost for decorating the room.

3. A 3-D view.

Review drawing scaled models. Assign each student a room to decorate. Aid students in drawing scaled models of the floor surface for each room and the outermost walls associated with each room. Inform students that they must also imagine that their room is surrounded by walls on all sides with a 6’5” doorway on one of the inner-facing walls. For homework, have students calculate the surface area for the floor and each wall. Using the prices of their wallpaper and floor treatment, have them also calculate the total cost of covering the walls and floor. Finally, have them calculate the volume of their ssigned room.

Albert J. Reyes, MA and B. Michael McCarver, JD are the principals of Lingua Medica LLC, a partnership of writers, researchers and analysts specializing in science, mathematics and medical education. The goal of Lingua Medica is to create successful educational materials by fusing quality writing with effective presentation formats.
All Activities of Albert J. and B. Michael

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