Teaching Measurement with Hands-on Activities for Kids

Engage, Math
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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!

Enjoy Teaching Measurement

Ms. Sneed Dreads Teaching Measurement

“I don’t even want to teach measurement,” Ms. Sneed told her mentor, Ms. Brown.

“I know the feeling,” Mrs. Brown replied. “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…?

Mrs. Brown held her had over the table and bent her pointer finger. “You can ask students to find everyday items that are about as big as the units of measurement you’re studying. Did you know, for example, the length of the middle section of your pointer finger is about one inch?” Then Mrs. Brown held up her little finger. “And the width of your pinkie is about one centimeter.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that,” said Ms. Sneed. “But I can see how those types of examples help kids conceptualize units of measurement.”

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 3

Cubic Centimeters

Mrs. Brown walked over to her base-10 blocks. “A cubic centimeter is an absolutely essential tool for teaching measurement.” She held up the smallest cube in the kit. “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!”

Ms. Sneed’s eyes widened. Wow, she hadn’t known that either. Mrs. Brown was really giving her a lesson!

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 2

Balance Scales and Graduated Cylinders

“Dust off your tools and let your students use them for science experiments,” Mrs. Brown continued. “Even the simplest experiments will help kids 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.”

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 4

Seize the Moment

Ms. Sneed walked toward the front of the room. “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!

“Seriously,” her mentor went on, “measurement is just one of those things you need to weave into your everyday teaching experiences. All. The. Time.”

Ms. Sneed Learns about Conversion Tables

“Yesterday I asked my students to convert inches to feet,” Ms. Sneed said. “It was absolutely awful! They didn’t know whether to multiply or divide. Additionally, they couldn’t divide by 12.”

“Kids have so much trouble converting!” Mrs. Brown agreed. “But our fourth grade standard says that they can use conversion tables.” She pulled a page from her file. “Like this. See?”

Ms. Sneed studied it. “You mean they fill it in and then use it?”

“Right! They can use repeat addition to fill in the table. That way, kids see the patterns and get the support they need. This page came from a customary conversion unit on Teachers pay Teachers.”

“I definitely need that!” laughed Ms. Sneed.

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 5

Mrs. Brown Explains the Value of Estimation.

“Let’s get back to the about-how-big idea,” said Mrs. Brown. “Sometimes we teachers need to forget about the standards – and concentrate on building conceptualization. In other words, we need to meet our students where they are – and carefully scaffold. Understanding of measurement requires it. And many of our kids are not getting practice with measurement at home.

“Estimation is essential. Let’s look at a few ways you can promote it.

“First, let’s talk about Estimation Station. Designate a desk or tabletop for the activity. 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.”

“My kids will love this,” Ms. Sneed smiled.

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 6

“Great, let’s download this set of free estimation resources for you right now,” Mrs. Brown said. She walked over to the computer, clicked around, and printed it out.

 Metric Olympics

Next, she continued to the AIMS website. “The Mini-Metric Olympics are 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.”

“That sounds like fun too,” Ms. Sneed said.

“It sure is! If you can believe it, I’ve been holding a metric Olympics every year since the 80s. I’ll never give it up!”

Teaching Measurement with Literature

Mrs. Brown walked to her shelf. “You can use books and short stories to make measurement come to life. For example, I ask my students to apply measurement concepts with this version of Jack and the Beanstalk.”

Enjoy Teaching Measurement 7

Ms. Sneed looked at the notes she had jotted down during the meeting with her mentor. “I take back what I said earlier,” she said. “Mrs. Brown, I no longer dread teaching measurement. This unit is going to be a blast!”

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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