Practical Guide to Teaching Non-Standard Measurement

The following is a practical guide of strategies I have created for educators that can be used in the classroom. It includes strategies for 10 distinct areas that may cause some difficulties while teaching. The goal of this guide is to provide educators with strategies that will lead to a smoother, more meaningful, and more enjoyable learning experience for all.

1. Cultural diversity

To make the process of learning non-standard measuring more meaningful for all students, incorporate various cultural items (e.g. instruments, clothing, toys, etc.) to the roster of measurable objects, or ask children/families to bring in their favourite cultural items to be measured. These items can also be used to measure classroom lengths by practising unit iteration.

2. Physical diversity

Have assistive devices accessible for all children. Some examples would be tactile discrimination for same-length units, visual aids or an interpreter, varying sizes of measuring units, markers for wheelchair/walker wheels to identify one full rotation, and fidget toys/sensory tactiles to help children refocus/retain their focus.

3. Cognitive diversity

Using recorded observations, plan lessons and activities that include a range in tasks so that every child’s strengths and abilities can be showcased. On that note, also keep in mind the child’s areas of improvement and plan activities that allow the child to investigate those areas in an engaging, fun way.

4. Linguistic diversity

Use a mixture of visual aids. This may include pictures of key words in a word problem, the use of modelling which skills/concepts are being explored, and/or hanging multi-lingual posters of common mathematical terms and measuring units. Also, extend the option of visual explanations/answers to all children instead of only verbal explanations.

5. ESL students

In addition to the visual aides described above, place children who speak the same home language near/beside each other so they can work together with the freedom of conversing in their home language. This can alleviate some of the pressure and/or confusion of not being as proficient in English as some peers.

6. Group work

Encourage the use of unit iteration using groups of 3 or 4 children to measure lengths around the school. Since it is unlikely all children in the group will be the exact same size, they will have to work together to figure out how to measure these lengths using consistent units. (See my Sid the Kid post for a demonstration of this exercise).

7. Family involvement

Start a math communications journal and encourage parents and families to work with non-standard measurement, measuring common objects around the home (e.g. kitchen table, bed, vehicle, etc.). Have the children record their measurements in their journal. This can be a useful tool to assess the children’s and family’s understanding and usage of measurement.

8. Community involvement

You can work as a class to write letter for local companies and services (e.g. grocery store, police department, dentist, etc.) asking if they can lend or donate any supplies that can be used to measure objects within the school.

You could also take a field trip to those companies/services and measure common objects there (e.g. grocery cart, fire truck, dental tools, etc.) using available informal measuring units.

9. Usage of Literature

Using literature is helpful in many areas of development, and non-standard measurement is no different. Books provide a visual representation of the text, and can help children build concrete notions of what non-standard measurement means. Using the objects in the pictures, encourage the children to explain the measurable relationships (exact lengths, comparisons). For example, ask, “How many flowers tall is the tree?” These inquiries can be taken out of the book and put into concrete activities in the classroom.

10.  Indoor vs. Outdoor Classroom

Don’t be afraid to take the children outside for a math lesson (once a week should suffice). In order to create more meaningful learning experiences, bring the exploration and fun outside and engage the children’s gross motor skills as they learn non-standard measurement. The outdoors also opens up the possibilities for new measuring units that cannot be found in the classroom. For example, measuring children’s long jumps and ball throws, or measuring using the chained-link fence or bi/tricycles.


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