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

CME Group Community Foundation



Links and Length

Children will measure common household items using standard and nonstandard units.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Measurement
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements
  • Recognize attributes of length and width
  • Use tools to measure
  • Measure using standard and nonstandard units
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Plastic links
  • Common Household Areas and Items (the kitchen table, a chair, a bench, etc.)
  • Ruler or measuring tape

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. Ask children for ideas about why it might be important to measure something (for example, measuring your foot when buying new shoes).
  2. Say: "We measure things to find out how big they are. When we measure how long something is we measure the length. When we measure how wide something is we measure the width."
  3. Show the children a ruler and/or measuring tape and ask them if they know what it is and what it is used for.
  4. Model measuring a book and explain that the numbers represent the measurement of the object.
  5. Ask the children for other ideas about what they could use to measure the book (for example, hands, markers, etc.)
  6. Show children a link chain and explain how the link chain can also be used to measure the book.
  7. Count the links with the children. Once your counting is complete say, "We just measured the length of the book. The book is XX links long."
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Choose three objects in the house (for example, table, plate, area rug) and for each object ask children to predict "how many" links each object may be.
  2. Record their predictions.
  3. Hand out links to individual children and tell them to measure the 3 objects.
  4. Record the children's measurements.
  5. Ask children to compare their predictions to their actual measurements.
  6. Encourage them to team with another child to combine their links and measure a longer object.
  7. Try using other non standard units of measure to measure the same object. Ask children what they can use besides the links. Make suggestions with other items you have, such as paper clips, blocks, hands, etc. you have in your home. Children will discover that using some items, such as hands, or their feet, will result in different groups of children having different answers because people's hands and feet are not all the same length!
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Length The longest extent of anything as measured from end to end
  • Width The extent from side to side or breadth
  • Standard Something considered by an authority or by general consent a basis of comparison (e.g., standard tools for measurement are items such as rulers, measuring cups, and scales)
  • Nonstandard Other than standard (e.g., "In this lesson we are using links as a nonstandard unit of measurement.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Move around the room pretending to be measuring things.
  • Not have one-to-one correspondence for counting links.
  • Not be able to determine width from length.
Vertical line

Preschoolers may:

  • Want to use the links to create patterns.
  • Want to only use one specific color of links.
  • Confuse length and width.


Home child care providers may:

  • Count the links aloud with the younger children pointing directly at each link and giving it a number.
  • Ask children which side uses more links and then identify the one that uses more links as the length.

Home child care providers may:

  • Allow the children to arrange and use the links in whatever way they choose, while keeping the focus on measurement of length and width.
  • Remind children that the side that uses more links is the length.
Books Books
  • Inch by Inch by Leo Leoni (Random House Children's Books, 1960)
  • Twelve Snails to One Lizard: A Tale of Mishief and Measurement by Susan Hightower (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1997)
  • How Big is a Foot? by Rolf Myller (Atheneum Books for Children, 1972)
Music and movement Music and Movement


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Bring the links outside and have the children measure the benches, the sandbox, a square of sidewalk, etc.  Have them record their measurements on paper.
  • Have children measure their “hops” or "jumps" or "steps" to see how many it takes to cover an area.  Record on a chart.


Explore links Web Resources




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