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

CME Group Community Foundation



Which is Tallest?

Children will compare different length blocks and lay them on a graphing map in order from shortest to tallest.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools, and formulas to determine measurements
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties
  • Make comparisons and estimates of measures
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Blocks of different lengths
  • Graphing map or tabletop
  • Measuring tape
  • Extensions: homemade activity card with template outlining blocks from smallest to tallest

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. Choose three children of similar (but slightly different) heights. Do not let the children stand up yet. Ask the students to predict "Who is tallest?"
  2. Ask the children "How can we check to see if our predictions are correct?" (Answer: "We can measure them").
  3. Ask:
    "Can we let one child stand on a stool and then measure everyone?"
    "Can we let one child lie down on the floor and then measure everyone?"
    "What do we have to do to make sure we measure appropriately so that we can compare and find out who is tallest?" (Answer: Everyone has to be standing on the same level (floor) with no shoes on).
  4. Using a measuring tape or growth chart on a wall, measure each child's height and identify if the class prediction was correct. Then have the 3 children place themselves in order from shortest to tallest. Once in order, ask the children,
    "Who is tallest?"
    "Who is shortest?"
    "Is _______ taller than _______?"
    "Is __________ shorter or taller than ________?"
  5. Say: "Now you are going to get to do the same thing with our blocks."
  6. Bring out three blocks of different lengths laying them on the floor (but without standing/lining them up). Ask: "Which block is the tallest?" Predict which block is tallest and which is shortest.
  7. Ask: "What do we have to do to be able to compare the heighths of the blocks?" (Answer: "We have to stand them all up side by side with making sure that they are all on the same level.")
  8. Stand the blocks up to show the children. Ask them to check their prediction they made about which was the tallest.
  9. Say: "Now you are going to get to choose three blocks of your own to compare."
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Ask each child to choose 3 blocks of different heights.
  2. Tell the children to stand up the blocks on a flat, level surface to compare heights.
  3. Show the children the graph mat or a piece of paper with a line drawn along the bottom. Show children how they can lay blocks on the baseline on the graph paper to line up bottoms so that the tops show the height.
  4. Check their predictions after they lay down their blocks to make sure that their answer is the same as when they were standing up.
  5. Ask the children to arrange their blocks on the baseline from shortest to tallest. Check each child's work.
  6. Encourage the children to trace around the blocks (with a younger child the teacher traces around blocks.)
  7. Ask the child to color the shortest block "red" and the tallest block "green."
  8. If the child chooses to, she/he can label them with the words " Tallest" and "Shortest."
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
  • Tall, Taller, Tallest – Used to compare stature/height
  • Short, Shorter, Shortest – Comparison words for length

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Play with blocks.
  • Have difficulty tracing blocks.
  • Have trouble making predictions.


Vertical line

Pre-K Children may:

  • Have trouble making predictions.
  • Line up blocks with no attention to bottoms so they are not actually from tallest to shortest.
  • Line up blocks in order from tallest to shortest.
  • Want to use more blocks.


Home child care providers may:

  • Redirect the child by asking, “Which one is tallest?” of three blocks.
  • Tell the child “This one is the tallest block." "This one is the shortest block.”
  • Help the child predict.
  • Help the child trace blocks.


Home child care providers may:

  • Ask the child to predict which is tallest and which is shortest.
  • Assist the child with paying attention to bottoms so blocks are in height order.
  • Help the children check their predictions.
  • Once children have mastered ordering three blocks, allow children to choose more than three blocks.


Books Books
  • Big and Little by Steven Jenkins (New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1996)
  • The Tallest, Shortest, Longest, Greenest, Brownest Animal in the Jungle! by Keith Faulkner and Rory Tyger (New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2002)
  • The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1977)
Music and movement Music and Movement


Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Ask the children to find three trees to compare height.
  • Find sticks and compare height.
Explore links Web Resources




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