Hands as a Measuring Manipulative

Sometimes our very best tools are actually attached to our bodies.  I use my feet for all sorts of “opening and closing” needs, and my nose is the perfect choice when I need to turn the page of my ereader and my hands are inside of mittens.

Children’s hands are also a great tool for measuring.  Since each child’s hands vary in size, it is important to use the mathematical language “nonstandard unit of measure” so they all know that their answers will be different depending on the size of their hands.

What can their hands measure?  They can use their hands to measure length, by placing one hand down and then the other right next it, and continuing until they have spanned the length (or width) of whatever they are measuring.  This also works well if the children trace their hands and cut them out, so the cut-outs can be used as the measurement tool.

Hands are also a great tool to measure quantity.  Using the questions, “How many” or “How much” children can explore quantity in meaningful ways.  “How many Unifix cubes can you hold with one hand?” or “How much sand can you carry with one hand?” are realistic activities that can be explored with several children.  They will discover that bigger hands hold more and smaller hands hold less.  However, they will also find out that it takes fewer larger hands to measure a length and more littler hands to measure the same length.  Be prepared for how confusing this might be for them.

Try using hands as manipulatives and let us know  how it goes.

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