Measurement began in ancient times when people needed a way to keep the trading of goods fair. Early measurement was definitely an improvement from no measurement, but it still had some problems. Often, body parts such as feet were used to make measurements. Not all feet are the same size, so measurements made with peoples’ feet were not consistent. Eventually a system of standard measurement developed, using constant values. This activity helps students understand why standard units of measurement are needed.
Crayons (that have been used and have varying sizes)
Straws that have been cut to different lengths
A variety of books
Meter sticks or yard sticks
What To Do
Ask students to use the crayons to measure the width of their desk by laying the crayons end to end and counting the number used to reach from one end of the desk to the other. Ask students to share their measurements with the students in their group. Did they all use have the same number? Should they all have the same number? Ask students to use the pieces of straws to measure the width of their desk Ask students to share their measurements with the students in their group. Did they all use have the same number? Should they all have the same number? Ask them to use paper clips to measure the width of their desk. Did they all use the same number of paper clips? Should they have all used the same number of paperclips?
Ask students which method of measuring was the best so far? Why? Ask students to measure the width of their desk using a yardstick or meter stick.Did they all have the same number of inches or centimeters? QUESTIONS Why distance is measured with meter sticks, yardsticks and rulers rather than crayons or peoples’ feet? What are some other standard units of measure?
WOW staff, 2002.
© S. Olesik, WOW Project, Ohio State University, 2002.