Out Teach
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Primary
  • Area
  • Geometry
  • Math
  • Measurements and Data
  • Multiplication
  • Numbers and Operations in Base 10
  • Out Teach
  • Raised Bed
  • Vegetable Bed
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    Using Area for the Square Foot Garden -- Out Teach

    Using Area for the Square Foot Garden -- Out Teach


    Students in this lesson will learn about, connect and apply the use of area to a real-world problem—creating a planting guide for the garden. Students will determine the square footage of the garden and use this information, along with a planting chart to create their own plan.

    Background for Teachers:

    Out Teach logo

    Square foot gardening is one way that ensures a vegetable garden bed can thrive. It is used to ensure not too many plants of a specific variety are planted in a single area. Using the square foot model keeps plants properly spaced, providing a perfect real-world context to teach area, apply multiplication strategies and have students work collaboratively. Most garden beds are 8 x 4 resulting in 32 square feet to work with. It is possible however to have beds of different sizes. While 32 square feet to work with is what is used in this lesson, the methods and chart can be used for any rectangular planting area.

    Key Vocabulary:

    • Square foot

    • Area

    • Perimeter

    • Factor

    • Product

    Guiding Question:

    How can we apply multiplication in the real world?


    Gather students around a rectangular planting area or garden bed.

    Ask: If you could plant any vegetable in the garden, what would you choose?

    Quick turn and talk.

    Ask: Let's say we only wanted to plant carrots. How many do you think you could plant in this space? How could we figure that out?

    Accept answers.

    Ask: What if I told you that knowing the area of the garden bed could help you figure this out? Today you will use this knowledge to solve a "real world" problem.

    Review area and how it is found (L x W).

    Explain that they will be making a vegetable planting plan using their knowledge of area.


    Explain that students will be placed into teams to determine the area of the vegetable beds. They must work as a team to find the area using the tools provided.

    Organize students in teams and give time to measure the length and width of a vegetable bed in feet.

    Students must record the multiplication of LxW in their journals.


    Gather students back to the central location.

    Ask: What was the area of the planting space you measured? Share with a partner from a different group.

    Use student measurements to demonstrate multiplication.

    Model various methods of multiplication based on student use of these methods. Emphasize that length and width can be switched and still produce the same answer. Emphasize vocabulary of factors and products.

    Draw out, or post a chart of a vegetable bed cut into the 32 squares in square foot gardening and explain that each square is one square foot which can be written as 1ft.2

    Ask: Why do you think we call this a square foot? How does knowing the area help us determine the number of square feet we have to work with? What do you think the "2" represents when writing square feet?

    Explain that this is important if we need to add fertilizer or mulch or to know how much space a certain plant might need.

    Hand out and/or post the attached square foot planting guide and give them time to look over it.

    Ask: How many carrots can be planted in 1ft.2 ?


    Teams will use their calculation, as well as the planting chart, to create a planting plan for a raised bed.

    Have them draw out configurations of boxes, list the area in square feet, pick a plant that they would use for that space and multiply to determine the number of plants they will need.

    Students can extend this to plan for the entire bed, or a fraction of a total bed.

    Model as needed, or choose a student to model.


    Student planting guides can be used as an informal evaluation of the concept.

    Students should share their plans for the raised beds.

    For individual evaluation, use the attached "exit ticket" model or have students replicate it in their journal.

    Close by again emphasizing the importance of multiplication fluency for solving "real world problems" and congratulate students for using their math skills to create a planting plan.

    Extension Activities:

    Complete the activity using cm instead of inches.

    Students can use the measurements and instructions on fertilizer to determine the amount of fertilizer necessary.

    Students can determine the amount of soil needed using extending from area to volume.

    Advanced applications could involve negative space. For example: How much mulch would we need if we mulched all around the beds but not inside them?

    Students could create a planting plan based on a specific recipe. The recipe could tie to one that shows is part of a reading anchor text, or one that gets at nutrition goals.

    Students could make a planting chart based on nutritional value, vegetable yield needed to sell at a school-based farmers market.

    Students could use nutrition value charts to make the "most" nutritious garden based on a specific vitamin or mineral goal.