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Tips for Teaching Measurement

measurement task cards

Teaching measurement can be challenging. Each year my kiddos struggle with learning how to read rulers. To help with this ongoing problem I have started creating games and activities to support my learners. 

With these task cards, my goal is not to have kids concerned with what an inch looks like. Rather, my intent is to have students practice measuring to the nearest half inch. Once they master this skill, we move on to measuring to the nearest quarter inch.

Rulers Can Be Confusing

From my years of teaching measurement to 3rd grade, I learned the one thing students have the most trouble with is figuring out which line on the ruler to look out. There are so many lines on a ruler and it can be overwhelming, even for me! It’s always good to have students measure actual objects in the classroom, but these task cards are for struggling students. The ruler has been simplified to make it less confusing.

using a straight edge to help with measurement
Use a straight edge to help find the measurement.

Have Students Use a Straight Edge When Measuring

The first thing I have my students do is get a straight edge of some sort. Sticky notes and index cards work well for this. Then, my students line up the edge of the sticky note with the end of the object being measured. This really helps kids see which line on the ruler they should be looking at.

teaching linear measurement when object isn't lined up with the edge of the ruler
Just recount the inches.

Preparing Kids for Linear Measurement Challenges

In Texas, our state assessment likes to throw some challenges our way. It’s not uncommon for my students to have to measure objects with a broken ruler or an item that doesn’t line up with the edge of the ruler.

If the object being measured doesn’t line up at the edge of the ruler, then I use the sticky note to cover up the part of the ruler not being used. Then I have my students count the inches. This can be tricky. Kids see the 5 at the end and want to say that this shoe is 5 inches, but it’s not. If this were on a worksheet, I would highly encourage them to cross out the numbers on the picture of the ruler and renumber it.

object being measured isn't lined up with edge of the ruler
It looks scary, but it’s not a problem! 😉
tip for teaching linear measurement

More Measurement Challenges

This is where things get really fun! In the picture above, the shoe doesn’t line up at the left end of the ruler and this ends up being a measurement with a fractional answer. We still start off by using the sticky note to see which line we should looking at. Then I would actually have my students start at the right end of the ruler and count going from right to left. By doing this, students will be counting the whole number markings on the ruler. It’s easier for many kids to the count whole number marks on a ruler rather than count from 1/2 inch mark to 1/2 inch mark.

My kids always need a lot of hands-on measurement experiences, so I have created many different activities for linear measurement. You can get these measuring to the nearest half inch task cards as a FREE download in my TpT store.

What strategies do you have for teaching linear measurement?

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