Making Measurement Meaningful

May 6, 2015

Wednesday is our planning morning for math.  Jess, Carrie, and I sit down, look at our curriculum map, and start talking.  It is truly one of my favorite things to do because it always pushes me to think a bit deeper.  One of our main goals this year was to intentionally plan lessons that make each math skill as meaningful to our students' lives as possible.

Well...after our planning session last Wednesday, I could not WAIT to write this post.

We sat down to discuss measurement but realized that we had covered what we wanted in order to hit the standards but we weren't satisfied that they truly saw how measurement impacted their lives.  Honestly, our minds were blank.  We had nothing.

I pulled up EngageNY's lesson on measurement just to see if anything fired up our creative juices.  What we found were some lessons on paths.  YEP! That was it.

Measuring distance with nonstandard units.  This is something that we do daily (well, not with nonstandard units).  Even if it is just running up to the grocery store, we typically think about what the shortest path would be to get there.  Or if there is a traffic jam we try to think about another route to take that would not be TOO out of the way.  Another example...sleeping babies.  When my girls would fall asleep in the car, I would take the longest possible way home just to keep from waking them up.

All of this conversation led to the construction of a small town in our classroom.  Luckily (for this lesson only), we have very ugly green and tan tile.  This was our nonstandard unit of measurement.  I taped off the floor with black duct tape.  Constructed a school, fire station, police station, post office, and a home with a cardboard box. Our firsties added some of their own buildings (like the bank below) as the lessons unfolded.

Jess and I decided that this was going to be a two day lesson.  On day one we took a lot of time explaining the purpose and importance of measuring paths.  Then we showed them the two paths that we had made using colored masking tape.  After a bit of debate, the class decided to measure the path using the tiles on the floor.

The tiles were counted for each path and we recorded the information on the board.  Our firsties were asked to determine the shorter path and explain why.  The class then constructed their own path together as we followed with a third color of masking tape.  We added this data to the board and put the three paths in order from longest to shortest.

To bring the lesson to a close, the students tried it out on their own in a paper format.

Day 2 played out much like the first; however, there were no paths when the students walked in.  They constructed all three paths together and we asked them to come up with a short story to go along with why the individual was walking from one location to another.

Then they were asked to try it out on their own.  It was so interesting to look at the different paths that the students created.

Now...not all of the sheets looked like this.  Some students wanted to just cut diagonally across the whole sheet or some took the loooooongest route possible even though the directions said "shortest."  But for the most part they could apply what they learned whole group to the independent practice.

And I have to was a lesson that came about rather spontaneously because of one worksheet we saw on EngageNY's website.  But it was one of my f.a.v.o.r.i.t.e lessons from this year.  I can't wait to do it again next year.

You can find this post and some other great "real life" and hand-on math at: 

Check it out Here.

4mulaFunThe Teacher StudioTeaching to Inspire in 5th, AND MissMathDork,


  1. A little behind on my blog reading, but this looks like a great lesson! I am excited to use EngageNY next year with my kiddos!


  2. That is FUN! We would have to do it in the hallway because of the disgusting old carpet in the room, but mixing it up in the hallway every now and then is a welcome break. Thanks for sharing!

    The Land of I Can


We love to hear from you! We will reply through email or in a comment above. Thank you!!