posted by Stephanie Forsman

clockMeasurement is an area of my math curriculum that I often feel gets neglected, rushed through, and sometimes, at crunch time, overlooked all together.  As a result, I have worked on infusing small aspects of measurement into the routines of the day.  From linear measurement to volume, weight and mass to telling time, temperature and money, measurement is an everyday skill, “real life math.” It is important that children know how to identify appropriate units and choose the correct tools and technology for measuring those units.

One of my favorite topics that I consistently revisit throughout the year is Time. Even in 3rd and 4th grade, some children cannot tell time and rely on the adults in their life to tell them where they need to be and when. At the beginning of the school year, regardless of what grade I am teaching, I do a quick lesson on Time – 24 hours in a day, AM & PM, the short hand is the hour hand and the long hand is the minute hand. One of my favorite tools to teach Time is a Judy Clock. I have a class set and each student has one in which they practice telling time and learning the concept of elapsed time. A Judy Clock features easy-to-read numerals that show elapsed time in 5 min intervals. The clock makes learning to tell the time simple and fun for children and comes with visible functioning gears that maintain correct hour hand and minute hand relationships.



I will routinely ask the children to show me the time on their clocks or I will pose questions, “if it is 10:45 AM now and we have lunch at 12:00 PM, how much time does that leave us for snack and math?” Another handy time telling tool I have is a rubber clock stamp.
I will routinely ask the children to show me the time on their clocks or I will pose questions, “if it is 10:45 AM now and we have lunch at 12:00 PM, how much time does that leave us for snack and math?” Another handy time telling tool I have is a rubber clock stamp.

When I put up the day’s schedule on the board, I will put the event and the time and then have a blank picture of a clock where the children will draw in the correct time using the hour and minute hands.  I will write times such as “Math – 10:45 AM” with a blank clock next to it and make sure that the child responsible for noting the time will make sure that the hour hand is closer to the number 11 than to the number 10.

Just like my parents did with my brother and I when we were growing up, I like to have a height chart located on the inside of my doorway. One of our beginning of the year activities is to partner up and mark your height on the door. I use a cloth tape measure for this activity and it does require a pre-lesson on how to use the measurement instrument. The first year that I did this activity, I just gave the children the tape measure and had them go at it. I quickly realized that the majority of the children did not know what to do when they had run out of tape measure but still had not completely measured their friend. I have a class set of 60 inch, cloth tape measures that the children use throughout the year. I find that the cloth tape measures are easier to manipulate, cheaper, and easier to store.  After a lessons in which we discuss “How many inches in a foot?” and “If a child measures 52 inches, how would we record that in feet and inches?”, we place our names, the date and our heights against the door. We do this activity 3 times a year and at the end of the year, each child figures out how much they’ve grown through the school year. In our end-of-the-year reflection, we include our physical growth as part of the child’s reflection, “This year, I have grown 3 ½ inches and have become a much more of a risk taker when approaching difficult math problems.”

It is also extremely important to allow them exploration of various types of measurement tools and educate them to which tool is best for which situation.  Measuring how long things are, how tall they are, or how far apart they might be are all examples of length measurements. I expose the children to all sorts of measurement units in which they can use to measure various objects. Centimeters, inches, feet, yards, miles, and kilometers are all the units we use to measure distance, height, and length.

We brainstorm items we’d like to measure and then categorize them according to the units of measurement we’d use.


I like to put this conversion chart up in the classroom for constant reference –

1 foot = 12 inches

1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches

1 mile = 1,760 yards = 5,280 feet = 63,360 inches

Liquid measurement is another aspect of measurement that when I run across it, often need to look up a conversion chart to make sure that I am measuring correctly. I am not always certain that 2 pints equal a quart since I very rarely use these units of measurement.  Again, this is when a conversion chart comes in handy but we make our own “Gallon Man” with empty, recycled containers that the children bring in from home. We bring in one plastic gallon (milk), 4 quarts (milk or juice), 8 pints (ice cream, yogurt), and 16 cups (yogurt, sour cream). Preferably all plastic and clean. Before I put up a conversion chart, I essentially create a water table and see if the children can come up with the equivalents on their own. “How many quarts equal a gallon?”, “If there are 2 cups in a pint, how many cups in a quart?” After figuring out the conversions ourselves, we create “Gallon Man.” We actually create this by attaching the quarts to the gallon with holes and wires for the arms and legs and then 2 pints to each quart and finally, 2 cups to each pint. We should rename our creature “Gallon Robot” or “Conversion Robot.”


We hang up “Gallon Man” in our classroom for easy reference.

Teaching measurement or any concept for that manner, using hands-on activities, manipulatives, and real-life applications makes concepts more interesting, engaging, and fun for my students. I get a lot of my ideas from Pinterest and often, these “real life math” lessons take little time and don’t take away time from keeping pace with my mandatory math curriculum.


Stephanie Forsman

Stephanie Forsman—who wrote many of the math lessons on our Math at Home website—has been teaching in the New York City independent school system for more than 15 years. She is currently a fourth-grade teacher at The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, where she previously taught at the second- and third-grade levels. She has served as a facilitator for Mathematics in the City, a research and professional development center with a mission to "transform classrooms into communities of mathematicians, where children explore interesting problems and, like mathematicians, engage in crafting solutions, justifications and proofs." She has presented workshops on Math Puzzles & Logic Games, Technology and Math and Napier’s Bones at national conferences and served as the math subcommittee chair for the accreditation group conducting the New York State Association of Independent Schools’ 10-year school accreditation reviews in 2013. Stephanie earned her B.A. in art history and fine art at Trinity College in Washington, DC, and her M.Ed. in elementary education and museum education at Bank Street College in New York City. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa.

Read more posts by Stephanie Forsman

8 Replies to “Measurement”

  1. The article on measurement was very good it provided examples for the data collection process. It used bright and colorful materials with a variety of choices that caught the attention of the children , it also provided hands on activities that lets the children be aware of their surroundings.. The children were not restricted to just measuring using a ruler the used water and were able to ask questions and draw conclusions.The got to use real life math lesson which makes learning fun and enjoyable.

  2. I totally agree with the user above regarding the article on measurement. It used examples with bold colors as well as child friendly recognizable images to teach valuable skills in a way that is non restrictive and fun.

  3. I enjoyed reading the article above. I think the bright, kid-friendly items can help further the kids knowledge in measurements.

  4. Having the students bring items from home helps the family engage with the classroom. Connections can be made between math and daily life with the common items that the students use in daily life.

  5. I like to use a lot of non-standard things to measure, usually once a month we use something to measure how tall we are, we take a picture then at the end of the year we compare all the picture to see how much we have grown over the school year, (I usually use apples cutouts taped to the end of the cubbies and then measure the children, (usually change them for each season and/ or them. The children love it!

  6. So many good ideas for children in elementary. As a preschool teacher, we use blocks, cubes and things like that to measure – but still have to address the issue of \”running out\” of cubes when measuring – what do we do? Problem solving at it\’s best! – Ann

  7. Wow, there are a lot of great ideas in this post. I like that you have not only presented the ideas, but also some background info behind it. I can\’t wait to incorporate a few of these ideas in my daily routine.

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