Modeling: Making Matchsticks

Mathematical goals

This lesson unit is intended to help you assess how well students are able to:

  • Interpret a situation and represent the variables mathematically.
  • Select appropriate mathematical methods.
  • Interpret and evaluate the data generated.
  • Communicate their reasoning clearly.


  • Before the lesson, students tackle the problem individually. You assess their responses and formulate questions that will prompt them to review their work.
  • At the start of the lesson, students respond individually to the questions set, and then work in groups to combine their thinking and produce a collaborative solution in the form of a poster.
  • In the same small groups, students evaluate and comment on some sample responses. They identify the strengths and mistakes in these responses and compare them with their own work.
  • In a whole-class discussion, students explain and compare the solution strategies they have seen and used.
  • In a follow-up lesson, students reflect on their work and their learning.

Materials required

  • Each student will need a calculator, a copy of Making Matchsticks, a copy of the Formula Sheet, a blank sheet of paper, and a copy of the How Did You Work? questionnaire.
  • Each small group of students will need a large sheet of paper for making a poster, felt-tipped pens, and copies of Sample Responses to Discuss.
  • There is a projector resource to help you with whole-class discussions.

Time needed

15 minutes before the lesson, a 90-minute lesson (or split into two shorter lessons), and 15 minutes in a follow-up lesson. Timings given are only approximate. Exact timings will depend on the needs of the class.

Lesson Type

Mathematical Practices

This lesson involves a range of mathematical practices from the standards, with emphasis on:

Mathematical Content Standards

This lesson asks students to select and apply mathematical content from across the grades, including the content standards: