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Tips for Teaching Measurements

by Charlie

There are many different aspects of Measurement that are covered in the national curriculum: dimensions, weight, time, temperature, and volume.

Measurements can be a fantastic, fun and involving way to meet maths in a real world way. It is also an invaluable topic for re-covering other areas of maths and as such a great way to ensure maths mastery in your classroom. 

Obviously, the importance of understanding measurements is an essential skill for life – from making models, building houses, using in recipes and conducting experiments. Heres a list of tips to bear in mind when teaching about measurements that will help you in the classroom and also improve learning outcomes.

Measurements - How to teach

1. Start with Length

Length is an accessible place to start. Explain how to measure an object and the scale of a ruler. Differentiate between centimeters and millimeters in terms of place value without touching on the relationship between. “So this pen is 7 cm and 3 millimeters,” 

Get children to work in pairs or small groups. Give them some objects to measure – a pen, a ball (if you want to challenge), whiteboard eraser, a piece of paper, …, anything you have lying around.

Tell them that whoever gets the closest to the total length will win. (No prizes needed)

This will require the children to make their own measurements, and sum the lengths. So 56 centimeters and 22 millimeters. This leads naturally to some more able students to understanding converting from 10 millimeters to 1 cm, but doesn’t exclude students who need more help.

Reveal a ball and ask the to measure the diameter – and how may be the best way to measure it (with a piece of string, a giant pair of calipers or a ribbon type tape measure).

It can be quite an interesting exercise to have the students make a bar chart of their guesses. The mean average of the guesses “should” work out to be the closest to the actual length. (See Wisdom of the Crowd.)

If you have an outlier – a result that is a lot different to the offers – then this can lead to a discussion of alternatives to using the mean such as the mode.

2. Challenge

There are some great challenges that you can do in 10 minutes in a class to reinforce:

Hand out a load of rulers, tape measures, string with knots and ask children to find: 

– an object that is less than
– an object that is less than 25cm and more than 20cm
– an object that is less than 4 knots on the string but more than 2 knots.

Remember the closer tot he two limits are the more challenging the question.

If you are blessed with lots of scales combine the challenge to include more than or less than 30 grams.

3. Measurement with Emile 

A problem with teaching measurement is the need for equipment to use. Some schools have it, getting it out and clearing away can be a pain. The number of objects that can be measured is restrictive and can lead to students only measuring 10 or so objects an hour.

By using a resource like Measurements with Emile, students can answer and “measure” hundreds of objects in the space of a few minutes. 

Children obviously love these types of resource especially when they are competing against one another or buying things for their own Emile. 

4. Go outside 

Measurement is a topic where students can go outside the classroom. Measure the field (and introduce area and perimeter), measure lines in the playground, how big is the football goal, how tall is the playrgound equipment (can they make a model?), how wide is the gate.

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