For some reason, measurement and geometry always seemed to be the weakest strands for the elementary students in the schools I’ve taught in. Maybe it’s because they aren’t traditional arithmetic, or maybe it’s because they tend to be left for the end of the school year. Whatever the reason, they tend to get left behind. Here are some ways to incorporate more measurement throughout your school day:
-ask what time it is. Telling time is an important measurement skill. Depending on the age of your students, you can ask them what time it is, how much time has passed since…, what day/ month/ season it is, etc. Make sure they have access to analog clocks and calendars. Bonus points for using timelines to figure out how many days/ minutes/ hours/ seconds have elapsed!
-have the students put things in order by measurement unit. This can mean lining up by height or by foot length/ hair length, putting potted plants in order by planter capacity, putting backpacks in order by weight, etc. (It’s also a fun way to line up when it’s time to go somewhere!) Even if the students aren’t yet ready to use actual measurement units, they can still put thing in order based on their measureable properties.
-graph stuff. Having a party? Make a pictograph of what food everyone wants. Just took a spelling test? Make a line plot of the scores (anonymously!!). Graph the weather/ temperature, what color sneakers everyone has, lunch requests, anything. Bonus points if you’re graphing something you first have to measure!
(You can get free graphing resources here & more comprehensive materials here.)
-fill your classroom with containers labeled with their capacity. Label every student’s water bottle. The pencil cup. The bucket where you keep the lunch boxes. Every container can be labled with its capacity in both metric and customary units. Students need to interact with these objects in order to have a reference point when using them. Bonus points if you can get them to start looking for the capacity of every container they find… the lunch room and art room are especially good for this!
-practice counting, adding, and subtracting money when the opportunity arises. Kids can count coins for fundraisers, their lunch money, their change, field trip costs, etc. They can add up the costs of books in the library (the prices are often on the back), how much was spent on a party, orthe cost of their school supplies. Bonus points if you can create a reward system that uses pretend coins and money!
Measurement concepts and skills are a little different from other math strands. Kids need direct instruction on how to measure, but also need to be engaged with measurement units and concepts in order to internalize them. The more opportunities students have to interact with and manipulate these units and skills, the deeper their understanding will be. Then, when it comes time to apply these concepts in estimating or problem solving, either in math or in real life, they will have strong, well-developed concepts on which to rely.
Happy (Measurement) Teaching!!