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 activity has been developed in partnership with Visy. For over 70 years Visy has been committed to finding sustainable solutions for Australia’s recyclables and helping to reduce local landfills. Visy collects, receives and sorts paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, steel and aluminium from households, businesses and schools with the purpose of reusing these products in the re-manufacture of new packaging products.

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:

Critical ThinkingGlobal CitizenshipSocial SkillsProblem Solving

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: Recycling, Sustainability.

Unit of work: Visy Education – 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
  • ... understand the amount of paper being used and recycled in Australia.

Success criteria: Students can...

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

Teacher content information: What do you do with the things you no longer want or need, such as the packaging from the food you buy or bottles you drink from? Many of us have grown up thinking of this as 'waste', as something we need to just get rid of. But what if we think of these materials as a resource for creating new and useful products? What if we can re-imagine how we think about and use these materials?

Thinking of waste items as the resources required for creating new products is a grea

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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 image reveals the amount of recyclable products manufactured at Visy in one year, as well as the amount of material manufactured. Most of these measures are in tonnes which is 1000 kilograms:

(Image source: Visy, 2021)

Find the amount of paper and cardboard manufactured 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 1.56 million tonnes of paper? What about African elephants? What about blue whales?

Hippo African elephant Blue whale
Weighs approximately 3.75 tonnes – Source  Weighs approximately 4.8 tonnes – Source  Weighs approximately 136 tonnes – Source 

How many hippos would equate to 1.56 million tonnes of paper and cardboard?

How many African elephants would e

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