Three Sheet Tower

Type: Investigation

Theme: Engineering

Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Learning Target: Students will learn about the engineering design process while building a tower out of paper.

folded shapes

Please collaborate with a partner (3 students only).

This math investigation focuses on the Engineering Design Process Cycle.

  1. Identify the Problem: A high tower must be built to support at least five pennies. The winning group will have the highest value for their "tower evaluation index." Tower evaluation index is calculated by multiplying the height (cm) by the number of pennies.
  2. Identify Criteria and Constraints: Only three sheets of copy paper may be used. Colored copy paper or notebook paper is OK. You may cut and fold your paper, but no tape or glue may be used. 
  3. Brainstorm Possible Solutions: Please include a rough sketch.
  4. Generate Ideas: Refine your sketch.
  5. Explore Possibilities: Add additional versions of your main idea.
  6. Select an Approach: Why did you select your approach?
  7. Build a Model or Prototype: Please include a photo.
  8. Refine the Design. What modifications did you need to make to your final solution?

Please submit a Word document (PowerPoint is OK) which contains:

  1. Information about how you applied all eight steps listed above to your project. Be specific. Please use full sentences, but keep the length of each step to less than one paragraph. The first two steps have been done for you. 
  2. Measurement of the area of your base in square centimeters
  3. Height of your tower in centimeter
  4. Number of pennies stacked on the top
  5. Tower evaluation index: height x number of pennies
  6. A photograph of your tower


  • Make precise cuts and folds.
  • Build with strong shapes. Triangles are strong and can be inserted into squares.
  • Rotate your shapes, so the paper holds in corners by compression. Otherwise, tension will pull your shapes apart.


Exit Ticket
CCSS Math Practice
  • I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • I can attend to precision.
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
  • Structure and Function