Surface Area of a Cylinder Games

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Looking for an engaging, meaningful game to help your students learn about the surface area of a cylinder? This lesson is stocked full of game ideas that will help your students deepen their understanding of how to find the surface area of cylinders.

Surface Area of Cylinders

Using a formula to find the surface area of cylinders doesn't have to be boring! By incorporating games into your lessons on calculating the surface area of cylinders, helps students stay engaged and learn while having fun.

Please change or adapt any of the following games to meet the needs of your students as well as your own preferences. When calculating the surface area in each game, you can decide whether students should just write the symbol for pi or actually multiply by 3.14. You can utilize one, a few, or all of the games as you teach your class how to find the surface area for cylinders.


Best Score!

Students get to go head-to-head to see who can pick real-life cylinders with a larger surface area.

Materials for each group

  • At least 10 cans of varying sizes (soup cans, soda cans, etc.)
    • Cans should all be a little different in size, but not drastically different.
    • Depending on your students' knowledge, you can label each can's radius and height or have the students figure it out.
  • Notebooks
  • Calculators
  • Rulers
  • Pencils


  • The object of this game is for a student choose the can that they believe will have the largest surface area. Students will in pairs, competing against their partner.
  • Pair students up and then tell them the object of the game.
  • Line all students up and have each choose a can from the pile/box of cans.
    • If for some reason two students want the same can, have them play rock, paper, scissors (or something similar) to see who selects their can first.
  • Partners will go head-to-head to find the surface area of their cylinder. Students may use calculators to calculate the surface area of their can.
    • The student with the larger surface area gets two points, as long as their calculations are correct! The partner with the smaller surface area gets one point as long as they calculated properly.
    • Partners will check one another's work for accuracy.
  • Have students play a number of rounds, exchanging cans with other students in the room or re-drawing them from the home box after each round.
  • The player with the most points at the end wins!

Take Your Pick

Students will test out their estimation ability to order the surface areas of a group of cylinders from greatest to least.


  • 5 groups of cylinders (real or pictures)
    • At least 4 cylinders in each group
    • Groups should be labeled by letters, numbers, colors, etc. to distinguish the difference (Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, and Group E of cans)
  • Pencils
  • Calculators
  • Rulers
  • Notebook paper


  • Students will compete in teams of 3-5 players. The teams will compete against one another to see which team correctly orders the groups of cylinders from greatest to least.
  • Each team will look at the groups of cylinders and talk among themselves to decide which group they believe has the largest surface area.
  • Each team will order the groups from greatest to least, by thinking about the total surface area on all of the cylinders.
    • Example: Group B, Group A, Group E, Group D, and Group C.
  • After each team has decided on an order, each team will be given one group of cylinders. They will take all of the cylinders in that group and find a total surface area.
  • Then, you will write the final order on the board for students to check. The team/s that correctly ordered the groups of cylinders wins!

Beat the Calculator

Which is quicker: the brain or the calculator?

Materials for each pair

  • Calculators
  • Pencils
  • Prepared set of at least 10 cards with pictures of cylinders
    • The cylinders should have their radius and height already listed
  • Notebook paper

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