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

CME Group Community Foundation



Measuring Straws

Children will use pre-cut straws and match them up with a corresponding length on a piece of paper.

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 measurement
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties
  • Recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area, and time
  • Use tools to measure
  • Develop common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Straws of all different lengths – about 7 straws.  Colored straws so that each child can have their own set of colored straws and they are easy to keep in the set.
  • Matching colored paper with the lengths of the straws drawn on them in descending order.  Purple straws will work with a purple mat…


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. Explain to the children that today we are going to talk about shortest and tallest and heights in between. 
  2. Ask the children to line-up from tallest to shortest.  They might need help with this activity especially the children who are close in size.
  3. Once the children are lined up in descending order from tallest to shortest, ask the children to identify the tallest child in the line.  Ask the children to identify the shortest child in the line.  Ask the children to identify children closer to the taller end of the line.  Ask the children to identify the children who are closer to the shorter end of the line.  Ask the children to try and identify who is in the middle.
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Explain the to the children that they will now do the same things with a groups of straws.  They will receive 7 straws and they are to put them in order from tallest to shortest.  There will be lines on the sheet to help them.
  2. When the children are done arranging their straws in descending order, ask  the children the same types of questions you asked when they were in line – Identify the tallest straw, the shortest straw, the straw in the middle of the tallest and shortest, a straw closer to the tallest straw, a straw closest to the shortest straw.

Additional Extensions

  • Do not draw lines on their work mat.  Have the children put the straws in descending (from tallest to smallest) order without the pre-drawn lines.  Then, have the children put the straws in ascending order (from smallest to tallest)
  • Under the tallest line, the smallest line and the middle line, write the corresponding word with space below so that the children can also copy and write the word.


Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Tall, Taller, Tallest – Used to compare stature/height (e.g., "Which straw is the tallest of al the straws?")
  • Short, Shorter, Shortest – Comparison words for length (e.g., "Which straw is the shortest of all the straws?")
  • Middle –Point dividing a line segment or group in half (e.g., "Which straw is the middle of the shortest and tallest straw?")
  • Height – The measurement from the top to bottom of something (e.g., "Today, we will measure the height of these straws.")
  • 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., “Today we will measure a group of straws and determine which is the smallest straw and which is the largest straw.”)
  • Ascending order – Arranged from smallest to largest (e.g., "First, we will arrange the straws in ascending order, from shortest to tallest.")
  • Descending order – Arranged from largest to smallest (e.g., “We will arrange the straws in descending order, from tallest to shortest.")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not be able to successfully arrange straws other than shortest, tallest and middle.
  • Just be becoming familiar with the concept of shortest and tallest.
Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Be adept at comparing the heights of objects.

Home child care providers may:

  • Have the children work with 3 straws instead of 7.  Their work mat should only have 3 corresponding lines on which to match the straws. 
  • Provide sets of 2 (one item being tallest and the other item being shortest) and have the children distinguish between the 2 items.  Provide more items than the 2 straws – 2 noodles od spaghetti, 2 blocks, etc.  Items you would measure by height.



Home child care providers may:

  • Give the children work mats without pre-drawn lines on it and have the children put the straws in ascending and descending order on the mat.
  • Give the children unlike items to arrange in order from smallest to largest or vice versa.


Books Books
  • The Dinosaur Who Lived in My Backyard by B. G. Hennessy (New York: Puffin, 1990)
  • Tallest, Shortest, Longest, Greenest, Brownest Animal in the Jungle! by Keith Faulkner (New York: Dutton Juvenile, 2002)
Music and movement Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Go on an outdoor exploration comparing like objects.  Which tree is the tallest?  Which bush is the smallest?
    If the children become adept at measuring like objects, mix up the objects and ask comparison questions, “Is the tree taller than the bush?”,  “Which is smaller?  The yellow car or the blue car?”



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