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Fixed Area

Worksheet and comments

1. For students:

With 36 squares, make as many rectangles as possible using all the
squares each time. Put the data into a table. Aswer the questions:
• Can you see a relationship between the length and width of the
• Can you put this into words?
• Draw a graph of the width against the length and note the pattern of the
• If you were a farmer and had just bought 36 hectares of land which is a
‘rectangle’, does the task you have just completed help you to decide what
rectangular shape the land must have so that the cost for fencing it is the
• If, when you have the longest thinnest rectangle (36 ×1), you were able to
cut it lengthwise in two, how long would the rectangle be now?
• If you continued to do this, would the rectangle ever become so thin that it

2. For teachers:

This is a similar task to Fixed Perimeter, but with the area constant this
time. In both these tasks there will be discussion in the class whether or not a
rectangle 9 ×1 is different from one which is 1 ×9. Let the pupils decide.


The reverses of the entered data for width 1 unit to 4 units may be
entered as lengths depending on above decision. Most pupils soon see the
relationship that the length multiplied by the width is equal to 36 for all the
values and so get the relation l ×w =36. (The graph of this is the positive
quadrant of the rectangular hyperbola l × w = 36). By calculating the
perimeter, the pupils can see that there is a great difference between the
perimeters, the square having the least perimeter. Hence the farmer would
like the land he bought to be a square since this would cost him the least
money to fence.
The last part of this task gets the pupils thinking about graphs
approaching a line and indirectly infinity. If the unit squares were cut in half,
the rectangle would be 72 units long and ½ wide, then 144 long and ¼ wide.
Many pupils have given the answer that the rectangle would ‘never have no