Often people are faced with the task of arranging furniture to use the space in a room efficiently. For the design challenge at the end of this unit, students will be asked to do exactly that in their own classroom.  To prepare for the challenge, students will be learning how to compare the sizes of different objects against each other. They will learn about measuring different attributes, including length, width, and different measuring units.  

 

List of lessons in this unit:

  • Why do we need measuring tools?
  • What could be used as a measuring tool?
  • Comparing the sizes of different objects.
  • Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various measuring tools.
  • Permutations on the lesson.
  • Design challenge: build a measuring tool to measure the space and furniture of the classroom.

Standards:

NGSS K-2-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. K.MD.A.2: Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/”less of” the attribute, and describe the difference.  For example, directly compare the heights of two children and describe one child as taller/shorter.

To prepare students to understand the learning objective, we’ll teach them about the real world uses of measurement.

 

Ask the class to suggest reasons why they might need to measure something. What would they use to measure?  If possible, have students watch this short video: “How People (And Squids) Measure Things” from SciShowKids to get them thinking and curious about different ways people measure things.  

Consider tying in the history of some measuring units such as:

  • Measuring a horse’s size in hands.  A hand in this context is 4 inches, and was derived from the width of a human hand, or fist.  This measurement is a base 4 system, as opposed to our base 10 system of counting.  Students can try to measure each other’s heights in hands.  Ask students to imagine measuring a horse with your hands, and how that may be useful instead of carrying around a meter stick, or other measuring tool.
  • Measuring size using a foot as a measuring tool.
  • Inches are based off thumbs.
  • A yard is based off a person’s stride.
  • Nautical knots (speed at sea) are based off of throwing a knotted rope overboard and seeing how many knots go by in a given time.  1 knot is equal to approximately 1.15 mph.  Log lines (the knotted ropes used to measure knots) had knots about 47 feet apart, and the knots were counted for 28 seconds.

 

Present the challenge to students. We want to rearrange our learning space. How do we know where things fit before we move them? Have students think about how they might tackle this problem.

Materials

Means to watch the video “How People (And Squids) Measure Things

Professional Preparation

You may want to review some interesting measurements, for example, how we measure horses in hands.  This will help facilitate a conversation around why and how we measure.

Optional: To direct the brainstorm process when thinking about how the class can rearrange the furniture, you may want to sketch out your space and furniture on graph paper.

What could be used as measuring tools?

This lesson will give students a chance to notice objects within their space that can be used to measure.  

  • Ask students to  note what furniture exists in their space, and what are the features of the room.  For example, desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves, rugs, doorways, windows, etc.
  • Ask students to think about how they could measure these items and features with another object in their space.
  • Allow students to pick objects that both will work well, and won’t work well and let them try to measure other objects with their choice.
  • Ask the students how they will communicate the length of an object that does not perfectly match the size of their measuring object.  For example, what if an object is more than three shoes, but less than 4 shoes long?
  • Some examples of possible measuring tools include: shoes, arms, paper, hands, etc.

To facilitate student measuring in this lesson, you may want to set up the following specific activity.

  • For each object or feature that your class will measure, post a recording sheet.  An example recording sheet that may work well for your class can be found in the student resources tab to the right.
  • Demonstrate how students could measure, for example, the height of a chair with an eraser.  Show them how to add their data to the recording sheet.  Note for each object or feature which dimensions students should measure (length vs. width…)
  • Students will then move around the room in pairs, small groups, or individually depending on your students’ needs.  They will measure each object or feature of your class, and record what they measured with, and the measurement.  Challenge students to use different measurement tools from their peers.
  • Once the activity is complete, you will be able to look at all these measurements, and reflect with students while their data is handy.

Reflection

  • Ask students what they think of their choice for measuring tool.  Do they think it worked well?  Does it consistently provide the same measurement?  Is it too big or too small for what you want to measure?

Professional Preparation

Consider what furniture and features you want students to measure in the classroom.  This could be the list of items you feel comfortable rearranging.

If using recording charts, print those out, and post them in the classroom.

Student Resources

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Learning Targets

Students will be able to measure in non-standard units.

Comparing Measurements

This lesson will give students a chance to compare the lengths and widths of objects against other objects.

Teacher Led Discussion and Exploration:

  • Begin by posing some questions to get students thinking about how you know when there is more or less of something.  Some questions could be: “Do we have more markers, or scissors in our class?”  “What is the tallest piece of furniture in our room?”  “Who is our tallest classmate?”
  • Students can practice by arranging themselves in a line according to their height.
  • Have students practice some more by arranging objects in a line according to measurable features. Some possible examples:
    • How long is each type of writing tool?  Show students a collection of writing implements, which could include pencil, crayon, marker, colored pencil, etc.  Have several students demonstrate arranging these in order by height.  To delve deeper, have other students try arranging these by another attribute such as width.
    • Compare heights of several classroom books.  Have several students demonstrate arranging a collection of classroom books by heights.  You could even have students all holding a different book, and challenge them to line up in order of book heights.  As with the writing tools, you can ask students also consider width or depth.

Small Group Activity:

  • Have students find at least 3 items in the classroom. They will then compare the length of each to confirm what has more length, and what has less.  
  • If they are ready to go to the next step, have them first compare length, then compare width.  Ask them to consider whether or not the order (tallest to shortest) remains the same.
  • Students can work in small groups, or independently depending on what works best for your class.
  • Note: If students cannot compare objects directly (2 bookshelves on opposite walls for example), show them how to accurately measure with a string.  Have them hold one end of a string at one edge of the object they are measuring, and then mark the string at the other edge.  Mark with a pencil, or hold tightly to the exact place on the string.  Alternately, have them only measure objects they can compare directly.

Materials

Segments of string for measuring objects in room.  Approximately 1 yard each.  Enough segments for each group of 3-4 students.  This can be optional if you ask students to only measure items that can be compared directly.

Professional Preparation

Gather items to compare lengths.  For example, 4-5 different writing implements, and a collection of different sized books.

Student Resources

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Learning Targets

Students will be able to compare multiple objects and determine what has more length, and what has less.

Comparing Measuring Tools 

This lesson will help students identify the strengths and weaknesses of various tools used for measuring.

Guided Discovery:

  • Present students with several different tools (ruler, yard stick, tape measure, etc).  Ask the students what they notice.  Invite them to consider what about each tool helps you to measure, and what each tool might measure.  For example, when considering a fabric tape measure, they might notice that it is flexible.  Ask students what you could measure with a flexible tool, that would be hard to measure with a stiff tool.
  • Ask students to re-evaluate some non-standard tools.  “What about a shoe could be a weakness or strength in measuring?”  Have them consider other possible measuring tools.

Activity:

  • Have students choose several improvised measuring tools (found objects in the class such as paperclips or math manipulatives.) They will then measure 3 different objects with these tools.  Challenge students to determine whether each tool is a good measuring device, or poor device for each object they measure.  A measuring chart can be found in the student resources tab to the right.

Materials

A variety of measuring tools.  Ruler, yardstick, tape measure, measuring tape…

Professional Preparation

Gather a variety of measuring tools.

Student Resources

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Learning Targets

Students will be able to determine strengths or weaknesses of a given measuring tool in the context of measuring a specific object.

Permutations of lessons 2-4:

We recommend having students try and tackle one or more of these permutations after they’ve worked through the original lessons. This will help reinforce the learned material and allow students to apply their knowledge to a new problem.

While these lessons are not essential for the design challenge, they can be incorporated when learning about measurement.  Have students work through the previous measuring lessons with variations for weight and/or volume.

  • Measuring by weight.  Allow students to explore the idea of measuring by weight.  They can  play with water displacement.  Try building scales, and devise their own standard of weight.  What makes a good unit of measurement? A duck? A stone? A pencil?
  • Measuring by volume.  Students can measure items such as water, sand, and dirt using various sizes of cups / buckets / boxes.  
    • You could change the real-world problem to be centered around packing boxes during a move.
  • Measure for large distances.  Are the previous tools still useful?  Would you measure the entire size of your school using shoes?

Materials

Water filled container to explore displacement

Water, sand, dirt, and various sizes of containers

Learning Targets

Students will be able to articulate an additional attribute to measure beyond length or width.

Lesson Overview

The following describes permutations of lessons 2-4.  Have students try and tackle one or more of these permutations after they’ve worked through the original lessons.  This will help reinforce the learned material and allow students to apply their knowledge to a new problem.

While these lessons are not essential for the design challenge, they can be incorporated when learning about measurement.  Have students work through the previous measuring lessons with variations for weight and/or volume and/or large distances.

Essential Questions:

  • How can we measure weight?
  • How can we measure volume?
  • How can we measure large distances?

LESSON PROCEDURE:

Students can work through lessons 2-4.  Instead of focusing on length, they will now be looking at 

  1. weight
  2. volume
  3. large distances

Student Direction

Sample teacher and student dialog

Weight

  • T: Allow students to explore the ideas of measuring by weight.  Show them water displacement, build scales, or have students devise their own standard of weight.
  • T: What makes a good unit of measurement? A duck? A stone? A pencil?

Volume

  • T: Encourage students to measure items such as water, sand, and dirt using various sizes of cups/buckets/boxes.
  • T: How many books can fit into one box?  How many boxes would we need to move all the books off the shelf?

Large Distances

  • T: Are the tools we already looked at useful to measure very large distances?  Would you measure the entire size of the school using shoes?  What else could we use?


Concept Quick Reference

very basic overview of the fundamental concepts. Summarize important formulas, scientific phenomena, vocabulary, etc.

Lesson Materials

Other

Water filled container to explore displacement

Water, sand, dirt, and various sizes of containers

External Resources

Maker Journal Pages

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Teacher Notes

Active Classroom

(OPTIONAL If students should be allowed to be out of their seat, talking & collaborating, work in the makerspace)

Nudge responsibility and freedom for students. Tips for classroom management. (See Management in the active classroom book for suggestions)

EXAMPLE:

Tips for success in an active classroom environment:

Communication is critical in the design process. Students need to be allowed to talk, stand, and move around to acquire materials. Help students become successful and care for the success of others by asking them to predict problems that might arise in the active environment and ask them to suggest strategies for their own behavior that will ensure a positive working environment for all students and teachers.

Practice and predict clean-up strategies before beginning the activity. Ask students to offer suggestions for ensuring that they will leave a clean and useable space for the next activity. Students may enjoy creating very specific clean-up roles. Once these are established, the same student-owned strategies can be used every time hands-on learning occurs.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to articulate an additional attribute to measure beyond length or width.

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Student groups review their makerspace journal and summarize their learning in a group discussion

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss and compare their findings and share different critical uses for water and methods of freshwater transportation that they discover in their research. Students should also share the difficulties that they discovered in transporting freshwater.

Teacher Assessment

Review student makerspace journal pages for formative assessment and discuss with individual groups as they work.

Conduct a whole group discussion to allow all students to share, discuss and compare their findings around different critical uses for water and methods of freshwater transportation that they discovered in their research. Students should also share about the difficulties in transporting freshwater.

The Challenge: You have been tasked to arrange furniture in a room. You want the furniture to be arranged in such a way that it takes up the least amount of space. But you have no measuring tool. How can you optimize the layout of the furniture without a formal measuring tool?

Activities:

Build a measuring device.

  • Students can work individually or in groups to design and build something with which to measure.
  • Students may want to use flexible material such as fabric or string.  They could also use cardboard, linked paperclips, straws, or any materials they can use to build.
  • Have students use a standard length for all their devices.  This could be the length of a ruler, or a non-standard length based on something in the classroom space like a floor tile.
  • Ask students to think about how easy or difficult their device is to use.
  • Give students time to build multiple prototypes, or multiple iterations.

Measure your learning space.

  • Measure the dimensions of the learning space and determine its total size.
  • Measure each piece of furniture to determine its dimensions.
  • Have the students record the dimensions of each piece of furniture using their measurement tool.

Teacher Led Discussion:

  • Have students compare the difference sizes of furniture.
  • Decide how you, as a class, can maximize usable space.

Have students compare their measuring tools.

  • What did the students like and not like about each other’s tools.
  • Would they want to use another student’s tool next time?  Why?

Materials

A variety of materials students can use to build a measuring device.

Professional Preparation

Optional: Create a diagram of the classroom space to facilitate the class discussion.

Student Resources

Journal or means to record measurements of the class space.

Learning Targets

Students will be able to compare measurable attributes of multiple objects.

Students will be able to compare strengths and weaknesses of measuring tools.

  • Teacher Assessment
    • Was the student able to compare the size of two different objects?
    • Was the student able to articulate the strengths and weaknesses of their measuring device?
  • Assess students by asking them to provide verbal self-reflections on their experience. Students may also want to provide verbal reflections regarding their peers measuring tools.