Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



Inch by Inch

Using colored measuring worms, children will measure the heron’s legs in the book, Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Measurement
  • Algebra
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties
  • Recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area, and time
  • Compare and order objects according to these attributes
  • Understand how to measure using nonstandard and standard units
  • Select an appropriate unit and tool for the attribute being measured
  • Measure with multiple copies of units of the same size, such as paper clips laid end to end
  • Use tools to measure
  • Use repetition of a single unit to measure something larger than the unit, for instance, measuring the length of a room with a single meterstick
  • Develop common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni.  Go through the book and cover up the measurements with a sticky.  Once the children have measured each of the bird’s feature’s, write in the measurement.  Don’t use the book’s given measurements.
  • Blown up copies on the various objects that the inchworm measures. (Rrobin’s tail, neck of the flamingo, tucan’s beak, heron’s legs, the tail of the pheasant, the whole of the hummingbird, and the cover of the book.) One set of worms is needed for each child.


Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Post a picture of the heron in your meeting area.  Make the inchworms available to use as measuring tools. Have the children estimate how many inchworms long the blades of grass are.  Record their estimates.
  2. Using the blue inchworm, demonstrate how to measure the blades of grass, along the sides of the blade, placing 1 inchworm in front of another inchworm until the blade of grass is lined up with blue inchworms. Write down the measurement next to the blade of grass.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Give each student a set of the blown up copies and some inchworms.  Have the students measure each of the bird’s features and record their results.
  2. Read the book, Inch by Inch.  Pause on each of the pages that the inchworm measures (you should have a sticky covering the inchworm’s measurement)  Write down the children’s results on the sticky.  Have the children share and compare their results. Do this all the way through the book until you get to the “whole of the hummingbird”  Do not read the end of the book, save it until the second read through.
  3. Once you have gone through the book and written down the children’s measurement results, go through the book again and, using the blue inchworm, measure each of the bird’s features for an accurate measurement.  Write the agreed upon measurement on a new sticky and cover the previous measurements. 
  4. Read aloud the end of the book. Say: “And the inchworm measured and measured, inch by inch, until he inched out of sight.”  Have the children estimate how many inchworms long it is from where they are sitting on the rug to the door, where they can exit and be, “out of sight”  Record their results.  Give the children the inchworms and have them measure the distance from their sitting spots to the door of the classroom.  You might want to have them work in small groups for this project.

Additional Extensions

  • Have the children use all the different length measuring worms and compare their results.  When you pass out the blown up copies, have a recording sheet next to each picture. 


Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Measure – Use of standard units to find out size or quantity in regard to: length, breadth, height, area, mass, weight, volume, capacity, temperature and time (e.g., "Let’s measure how many blue worms the robin’s tail is.")
  • How many  The total or sum (e.g., "How many blue inchworms long is the robin’s tail?")
  • Distance – The length between two points (e.g., "Using the blue inchworms, let’s measure the distance from where we are sitting to the door.")
  • Estimate – To form an approximate judgment or opinion regarding the amount, worth, size, weight, etc.; calculate approximately (e.g., "Estimate how many blue inchworms long the blade of grass is.")
  • Inch – An imperial unit for measuring length (e.g., "The blue inchworm is an inch long.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Have trouble lining up the inchworms, one in front of the other to measure the bird’s features.
  • Put the worms in their mouths. If this is a possibility, do not use the worms with your toddlers as they pose a choking hazard.


Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Measure with one unit of measurement with ease.

Home child care providers may:

  • Make some paper blue inchworms, cut them out and have the children glue them along the side of the bird’s features that they are measuring.  The gluing down will help the children keep track of inchworms used and will be easier to total at the end.


Home child care providers may:

  • Have the children use all the different colored measuring worms and compare their results.  When you pass out the blown up copies, have a recording sheet next to each picture. 

Books Books
  • Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni (New York: HarperCollins, 1995)

Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Have the children estimate and then measure how many inchworms long items outside are.  You can even have them estimate how many of each of the different size worms an object is.  Eg.  Measure the height of the pail.  Estimate how many 4 inch sized worms high the pail is and then measure for accuracy.  Estimate how many 3 inch sized worms high the pail is and then measure for accuracy.



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