Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students will obtain an understanding of large numbers by relating figures concerning paper usage in Australia to football fields. They will use area formulas and convert between units to solve problems. Students will also compare how much paper is used, recycled and thrown away as rubbish per year in Australia.

This lesson has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 60 years Visy has been striving for sustainability, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill by collecting recyclable materials and recycling them into new paper and packaging products. Click here to find out more about Visy and their innovative work in recovering and transforming recyclable materials into new products to preserve our earth’s precious resources.


Learning intentions:

  • Students will be able to use area and conversion of values to understand large values.
  • Students will understand the amount of paper being used and recycled in Australia.

21st century skills:

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 7 Maths: Standard area

  • Establish the formulas for areas of rectangles, triangles and parallelograms, and use these in problem-solving (ACMMG159).

Year 8 Maths: Standard area but provide less scaffolding on tasks

  • Choose appropriate units of measurement for area and volume and convert from one unit to another (ACMMG195).

General capabilities: Numeracy, Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.8.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Mathematics achievement standards: Students use formulas for the area and perimeter of rectangles and calculate volumes of rectangular prisms.

Relevant parts of Year 8 Mathematics achievement standards: Students convert between units of measurement for area and volume.

Topic: Waste, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Bright Sparks – Secondary Mathematics.

Time required: 80 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – the teacher will need to facilitate an investigation, class discussion and provide further information to students during the course of the lesson.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheets (one copy per student).
  • Device capable of projecting images and quotes.
  • A ream of A4 paper to map out the area of a designated space (e.g. classroom). Try to use paper from your staffroom recycling bin to avoid wastage.
  • Measuring tapes to measure the dimensions of the designated space.
  • Thumb tacks or small weights to keep the paper from moving or blowing away.
  • Scales (if you choose to weigh paper).
  • Rulers (if you choose to measure paper).

Keywords: Area, paper usage, recycling, conversion, large figures.

The information and statistics included in this document are approximate and have been simplified for educational/illustrative purposes. They should not be relied upon for any other purpose.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions:

  • Students will be able to use area and conversion of values to understand large values.
  • Students will understand the amount of paper being used and recycled in Australia.

Success criteria:

  • Students can sort collected waste into the different recyclable groups.
  • Students can use real dimensions of a waste-paper bin to apply volume formulas.
  • Students can use assumptions and calculations to make projections about recyclable material entering landfill.

Teacher content information: Almost everything we do in our daily lives creates waste. We can describe waste as something we no longer want or need. The food and drinks we consume, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the transport we take, the stuff we buy, the energy we use in our homes and workplaces – all these things have waste as a part of their production.

Many of the things we use come to us wrapped in some kind of packaging. Think of the toast and jam you ate for breakfas

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: How much is a million tonnes really?

Part A: Introduction – How big are those values really?

1. Have a look at the graphic below. This images reveals the amount of recyclable products manufactured at Visy in one year, as well as the amount of material recycled. Most of these measures are in tonnes which is 1000 kilograms:

Find the amount of paper and cardboard recycled by VISY in a year:


Now, write your answer in kilograms:


2. Below is some information about large animals. Can you work out how many hippos would equate to 1.8 million tonnes of paper? What about African elephants? What about blue whales?

Hippo African elephant Blue whale
Weighs approximately 3.6 tonnes – Source – *converted from tons to tonnes Weighs approximately 6 tonnes – Source – *converted from tons to tonnes Weighs approximately 180 tonnes – Source – *converted from tons to tonnes

How many hippos would equate to 1.8 million tonnes of paper?

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