Rectangle Riddle

Explaining and justifying
Noticing and using mathematical structure
  • Addition
  • Measurement
  • Multiplication
Grade level
Use an App
pattern shapes
Pattern Shapes
Number Frames app
Number Frames

What relationships can you find between area and perimeter?

a series of colored rectangles in different sizes

Find as many rectangles as you can that have a perimeter that is 4 units more than the number of square units in the area.

How could you get started?
  • Start by building a rectangle and recording the area and perimeter. What do you notice? How could you change the rectangle to try to get the perimeter and area measurements closer to the rectangle described?
Ready to explore more?
  • Think about one of the rectangles you made. How could you make a rectangle with the same area that has a longer perimeter? What about one with a shorter perimeter?
  • Can you make two different rectangles that have the same area and the same perimeter?
For Teachers: More about this activity

In this task, students use their knowledge of area and perimeter of rectangles to find rectangles that match the description given (a perimeter that is 4 more than the area). Third and fourth grade students are developing an understanding of area as the number of square units that make up a two-dimensional shape and connect the concept of area to multiplication of two factors (side lengths). Third grade students understand perimeter as the length around a figure, and fourth grade students can use a general formula to calculate the perimeter of a rectangle.

Students will likely experiment with several areas with different lengths and widths that get them closer to the rectangle described. They may use what they know about factors and products to choose a number that could easily be arranged into one or more rectangles and then compare and contrast the perimeters and areas of the different arrangements.

Any rectangle arranged into 2 rows or columns will result in a perimeter with a numerical value that is 4 more than the numerical value of the area, so students may make and test conjectures as they notice this pattern developing.

Various apps may be used to represent the context of this problem.

  • In the Pattern Shapes app, students may build a rectangle and calculate the perimeter and area by counting (as shown here) or by using formulas (as shown here). Once they have found one rectangle that fits the requirements, they should explore further to find others.
  • In the Geoboard app, students might build a rectangle and calculate the perimeter and area by counting (as shown here) or by using formulas (as shown here).
  • In the Number Frames app, students might experiment, using the “Choose a Frame” tool. This tool shows the area as the rectangle changes. Students might work inside this tool, comparing area with perimeter.

This activity gives students an opportunity to look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. You can ask such questions as: How can you find the perimeter without counting each exterior side? How can you find the area without counting by 1s? Students who have not recognized or used formulas for finding area or perimeter will likely lean into the structures that they have observed when counting the total number of square units (area) or linear units around the rectangle (perimeter), such as skip-counting or noticing and operating with equal groups.

Additionally, students may begin to notice how the relationship between perimeter and area changes as the dimensions of the rectangle approach those of a square. You could ask: Did the perimeter increase or decrease when you made a rectangle with the same area, but with more rows? Fewer rows? As students make multiple rectangles that fit the requirements, ask: What similarities do you notice between the rectangles that fit the requirements? Encourage students to make and explore conjectures: Will that always be true? How do you know?