Measurement (K-3)

The most important thing to remember about teaching measurement, at any grade, is to keep it hands-on! Create lessons that engage your students in measurement explorations (e.g., Pumpkin Math). For example, if you are exploring linear measures (e.g., length or distance), have your students measure the lengths of various objects or the distances between two points. Always have the students ESTIMATE before they measure anything. So, if they are going to measure the length of their desk, they must first estimate that distance (by using a non-standard unit such as linking cubes); and then measure the actual length using the linking cubes.

Young students do not know how to use a measuring tool; thus, you must explicitely teach your students how to measure. So, start with objects that easily connect or link together (e.g., linking cubes, plastic links or paper clips) and demonstrate exactly how to measure the table or the length of a pencil, etc. Then have the students measure a similar object (or number of objects) before sending them off to complete your activity.

When your students are comfortable using linking objects, move onto demonstrating how to use just one object to measure. For example, if you are measuring the length of a table using “pencils”, you need to demonstrate how to place the pencil on the table then put your finger at the end of the pencil to “mark the spot” ; then you will then place the pencil again. Encourage the students to work in pairs so that they have multiple helping hands (to mark the spot and maintain an accurate count).

IMAGES: Improving Measurement and Geometry in Elementary School is the product of an iniative by the Eisenhower Consortium for Mathematics and Science Education. In my opinion, t is the BEST on-line resource for teaching and learning measurement and geometry. The website includes amazing information on Cognitive & Development Theories of learning including the Van Hiele’s Levels of Geometric Thinking; Teaching Strategies; Assessment Strategies; and a large collection of Activities and Lesson Plans (PDF) covering a variety of grades. Visit the website at

Here are some other activities that you can use / modify for your classroom practice:

  1. Guide to Effective Instruction (K-3): Measurement
  2. Measuring_Eggs_Primary_AIMS
  3. Standard & non-standard measurement_Primary_ NCTM 2004
  4. Non-standard Measure_Gr.1_NCTM_2002
  5. Nonstandard_Mass_Primary_AIMS
  6. Measuring_Activities_Gr.K-6_NCTM_1999
  7. Metric_Activities_Gr.K-6_NCTM