Let’s look at some ideas to actually help you enjoy teaching measurement. First, make measurement tools accessible to kids 24/7. Use tables to ease them into conversions. And don’t forget to try some fun activities!
Yes, You Can Enjoy Teaching Measurement
Are you filled with dread at the thought of teaching measurement? I know the feeling. Who wants to begin that awful chapter in the math book? It’s filled with page after page of daunting material. To make it easier (and more fun), teach a little measurement every day. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
About How Big Is a…?
Ask students to find everyday items that are about as big as the units of measurement you’re studying. Did you know, for example, that the width of your pinkie is about one centimeter? And the length of the middle section of your pointer finger is about one inch. This information is really helpful, and you’ll be encouraging kids to conceptualize.
A cubic centimeter is an absolutely essential tool for teaching measurement. If you don’t have one, get one! I wish I had a dollar for every time I stood up in front of my class, held up that tiny cube of plastic, and said, “If this cubic centimeter were made of water, its volume would be one milliliter and its mass would be one gram.” Invaluable!
Balance Scales and Graduated Cylinders
Dust off these tools and let your students use them for science experiments. (If you don’t have them, send an email to your staff asking for them. Someone has them stored away.) Even the most simple experiments will help them conceptualize the size of grams and milliliters. For example, have students measure 100 milliliters of water and pour it into a shallow container. The next day, have them measure the water again to see how much has evaporated.
Seize the Moment
Get in the habit of challenging your students’ measurement skills. For example, ask, “What’s the perimeter of this bulletin board?” Then have them measure it to find out. Next, ask, “If we had 37 feet of trim, how much would we have to cut off in order to get it to fit around this bulletin board?” Ramp up the difficulty as you go along!
Kids have so much trouble converting! Use tables to get them started. Click here to download an entire set of customary conversion tables for your class.
Try an Estimation Station
This is a quick, simple way to engage students and improve conceptualization. Designate a desk or table top as your “estimation station.” Assign one unit of measure and a date to each child. He or she finds a simple household item to measure, brings it to school, and places it in designated area. Students estimate the size or number. The answer is revealed, and winners are announced. Kids love it!
Cups, Pints, Quarts, and Gallons
Ask parents to send in clean plastic gallon containers (must have four sides). Give each group of students a container, a measuring cup, a permanent marker, and access to water. Challenge them to accurately mark cups on one side of the container, pints on another side, quarts on another side, and gallons on the final side. Suggestion: Mark every four cups, every two pints, every quart, and fourths of the gallon.
Inches and Feet
Adhere a six-foot strip of masking tape to your classroom wall beginning at the floor. Mark inches and feet. Kids love measuring their height throughout the year. This will naturally help them conceptualize inches and feet.
Centimeters and Meters
While you’re at it, add a two-meter strip of masking tape to your classroom wall and mark it with centimeters and meters. Kids can compare their heights in two measurement systems!
Engage students with Mini-Metric Olympics from AIMS. It’s a must-do for every school year! Kids will love participating in these contests: Paper Plate Discus, Drinking Straw Javelin, Cotton Ball Shot Put, Right-Handed Marble Grab, Left-Handed Sponge Squeeze, and the Big Foot Contest.
Why not ask kids to write their own versions of fairy tales with measurement questions?
Enjoy Teaching Measurement Throughout the Year
The key to teaching measurement is spreading it throughout the year. Ask kids to measure as often as possible. Integrate measurement into literature, science, social studies . . . whatever! Make it fun for the kids. Then you’ll enjoy it too!
I post new ideas, activities, and free downloads every week. Click here for an index (and to see what’s coming soon!)
Enjoy teaching measurement!