I totally stole this idea from MissCalcul8's math blog. It sounded like a fun way to end the year with my eighth graders and I had about 4 days to spare before my end-of-the-year algebra final. I also thought it would be a nice prep for Geometry which all my students will be taking next year. Basically, students construct a tin man from boxes, paper tubes, cups, cones, sphere's, etc. and figure out the total surface area for their tin man. Once they have the total, they come to me for the tin foil needed to cover their tin man. I kept my groups small with no more than 2-3 people in a group because I wanted everyone to be an active member of their tin man group. The project was also completed totally in class which kept any one student from taking the project over and doing it all on their own at home.
I figured this would be a relatively easy project for my algebra students. My students have no problem figuring out the surface area of almost any type of shape on paper for homework or tests. To my surprise it was much more challenging when they were responsible for the actual measuring of the objects using tape measures exactly...it was eye opening in fact! The project also required quite a bit of collaboration and cooperation amongst members of the group. It was really fun watching them figure out how to cut up the tin foil to cover their tin man. I gave prizes to the teams that were closest to using their exact amount of tin foil. I ended up with two teams that were right on the money- they used every last bit of foil and had nothing left over. I displayed the tin men throughout the classroom including the amount of surface area that they were over or under for their tin men. My students loved it! In fact, many of them wrote about this being their favorite project of the year in their reflection paper that they write for me at the end of the school year.