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Hands-On Measurement Activities to Engage Students

Measurement is an essential skill for our students. From cooking to designing, it’s a necessary real-life skill! Often times, our measurement units fall during the second semester when we have the least time to devote to it. This usually means that it does not get the time and attention it deserves. However, measurement concepts offer a great opportunity to incorporate a variety of hands-on measurement activities.

In today’s post, I’m sharing three hands-on measurement activities that reinforce measurement skills for third and fourth graders. The first two activities emphasize length measurement, including critical thinking with rulers and area and perimeter with pentominoes. The third activity emphasizes angle measures using analog clock time.

Hands-on Measurement Activities

Length Measurement

The “Measuring Length” activity provides practice for measuring length. It emphasizes the idea of zero-point, the point where a ruler originates and measurement begins. An object placed at the end of a ruler is generally easy for students to measure; however, students often struggle to identify this point when presented with a broken ruler or an object not placed at the end of the ruler.  

To help students understand the concept of zero-point, students locate the zero point and measure the distance from the zero-point to the endpoint for each object. To increase the rigor, the zero-point of each ruler is not zero. Students are then forced to count the number of units and ignore the numbers displayed on the ruler.     

This activity also emphasizes understanding the unit and equal partitioning. Students must move from the beginning of one unit to the end of the unit in order to count it as a full unit. If a full unit cannot be made, students must attend to the partitioning of the unit and count the subdivided unit accordingly. Students then record the measured length with a fractional part if need be.


This activity addresses the following Common Core State Standard for Mathematics:
3.MD.B.4- Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch.

Area and Perimeter

The second activity is one of my favorites and features the use of pentominoes– five square unit two-dimensional shapes. See the image below for a picture of the set.

This is a picture of a set of pentominoes.

Pentominoes are versatile math tools used in many ways, including fitting them all together to make one large rectangle. Give that one a try! Today’s activity reinforces area and perimeter concepts. 

Pentominoes are available from any of the major math manipulative suppliers or Amazon; however, the free download of hands-on measurement activities includes a reproductible set. Looking for a real challenge? Challenge students to find all of the shapes that can be created using 5 square units. There are 12 of them!

Activity

Once students have a set of pentominoes to use, have them begin the activity. For part I, students find the perimeter of each pentomino, identified by the letter each pentomino shape resembles. After students find the perimeter of each pentomino, students analyze the shapes to compare the perimeters to the fixed area.

For part II, students create a new shape by putting two shapes together. The goal is to create a new figure with the smallest possible perimeter and the largest possible perimeter. Again, students compare how the perimeters compare to the fixed area and discuss the attributes of the shapes with a larger or smaller perimeter.

Both parts of the activity provide students the opportunity to compare the perimeter of shapes with the same area. Students then begin to make conjectures about the attributes of shapes with smaller perimeters when compared to shapes with larger perimeters. 


This activity addresses the following Common Core State Standard for Mathematics:
3.MD.D.8- Solve real world and mathematical problems involving perimeters of polygons, including finding the perimeter given the side lengths, finding an unknown side length, and exhibiting rectangles with the same perimeter and different areas or with the same area and different perimeters.

Angle Measures

This activity is super simple but adds a little variety to your basic angle classification/measurement lesson. This activity emphasizes the use of Judy Clocks, those cute little geared clocks that you don’t find much use for except during your time unit. “Clock Angles” requires students to use the hands on a Judy Clock, or other geared clock, to determine the angle formed by the hands. After students have experience classifying the angles, students use protractors to measure them.

The biggest challenge students have with this activity is that they misrepresent time on the clock. For example, when asked to show 12:15, many students represent it as a right angle; however, with a geared clock, students will notice that the hour hand is just past the 12, making it an acute angle.


This activity addresses the following Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: 4.G.A.1- Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.
4.MD.C.6- Measure angles in whole-number degrees using a protractor. Sketch angles of specified measure.

This activity not only emphasizes representing clock time correctly but identifying angles as well. The picture below shows the activity sheet for this lesson. In Part I, students classify the angles as either acute, right, obtuse, or straight. In Part II, students use a geared clock to represent the time and then classify the angle. 

To extend the activity, students can create the clock times in Part II on a blank clock face and then measure them with a protractor to verify their answers.

Next Steps

Grab your free copy of the hands-on measurement activities using the form below. You can also find more hands-on learning activities here.

Sound Off! What are your favorite measurement tools? Respond in the comments below.

Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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