7. Measurement

Links are to samples and extracts and cannot be printed.

Get the complete 'Measurement' resource here (free to VALBEC members).

1. Introduction sample

This section provides a selection of practical, hands-on activities that focus on aspects of measurement and time which are needed for full participation in mainstream Australian society.

The activities encourage students to engage with measurement and time language and concepts, as well as the systems used to measure them. They prompt learners to share existing knowledge in pairs and small groups and to extend that knowledge through exploration, visualisation and estimation, coupled with accurate measurement. These aspects all play a role in gaining a 'sense' of measurement.

2. Sorting and ordering units of measurement sample

This is a sorting activity designed to help students and teachers clarify students’ existing knowledge about metric units of measurement, such as metres, centimetres, litres, kilograms, and also the units for measuring time and temperature. The activity also allows for exploration of measurement related language and the meaning of the prefixes used in the metric system.

3. What do we use this for? sample

This is a brainstorming activity designed to stimulate students to think about and share ideas about how metric units of measurement are used in their everyday lives and work. It also provides opportunity to extend their knowledge of the relationships between the units, the meaning of the metric system prefixes and measurement related language.

4. Matching metrics sample

This activity is designed for small groups of students to interact and share their existing knowledge of metric units and measurements in everyday use. It also introduces the idea of ‘personal references’ or ‘benchmarks’: familiar quantities that can be used to help estimate other measurements.

Matching tasks like this are ideal as introductory activities, since they allow you to observe students’ existing skills and knowledge as a starting point for teaching whilst encouraging students to cooperate and discuss numeracy ideas. They are one of the least threatening numeracy tasks to use because all of the answers are there on the table for students to find and there is no need for them to write anything.

5. Metric true or false sample

These two activities are ideally done by pairs or small groups as discussion and sharing activities. They draw on students existing everyday knowledge as well as their understanding of metric units. The content focuses on commonly used measurements and metric units and some important facts about the metric system. Both sets could be done in a single session or they could be spread over two sessions with some time between.

Sets of true or false questions are ideal as focus activities to start or end a session and provide opportunity to observe students’ existing knowledge as well as highlighting areas that may need more attention. The variety of questions in these sets allows for diverse learner contributions.

6. The one most likely sample

This activity is designed to act as a discussion starter on several aspects of the metric system. It encourages students to visualise and compare metric measures as they collaborate in small groups and share their knowledge to answer the questions.

7. Knowing the metric system sample

In this activity a short discussion with the class leads into a description of the origins of the metric system, and how the units within it fit together as a cohesive whole. It also contains information sheets for students to keep as a record of these facts.

This discussion and information session is best held after students have participated in one or more of the activities which encourage sharing of existing knowledge, for example 'Matching Metrics', 'Metric True or False', 'The One Most Likely' or 'Sorting and Ordering Metric Units'.

8. Estimating length in metric units sample

This activity introduces the idea of using our own parts of the body, such as hand spans and arm lengths, as personal references or 'benchmarks' for estimating lengths in metric units. In this enjoyable activity students work in pairs and gain practice at both estimating and measuring with rulers and tape measures.

It also introduces the 'guess, estimate and measure' activity model that can be adapted for many other types of measurement. This encourage students to 'think metric', rather than always trying to convert from other systems of measurement they may be more familiar with.

9. Making a five metre measurer sample

This activity is designed to develop students’ ability to estimate and measure distances in metres. Students first create their own 5 metre measurer from string. They then practise using it to estimate and measure distances around the Training Centre. It is particularly ideal for students with little experience with tape measures and builders’ tapes, but all students will benefit from the estimation aspect of the exercise.

10. Paces for estimating metrics sample

This activity introduces students to the useful practice of using paces to estimate distances. Students measure and adjust their own paces, then use them in an active estimating and measuring exercise. This activity follows well from ‘Making a 5 Metre Measurer’ since the students’ measuring strings can be used for the more accurate measuring devices. It also complements ‘Estimating Metric Lengths’ which concentrates on estimating shorter lengths.

11. How far will my plane fly? sample

In this enjoyable activity students make paper planes, fly them, then estimate and measure the distances they fly. It is an ideal activity to develop the estimation and measuring skills of young adults and other active learners. Language of comparison is also encouraged.

12. Taller or shorter sample

This is an activity model that focuses on measurement related language of comparison at the same time as developing the skills of estimating lengths (heights) and estimating, calculating and describing differences.

In this version students use their own heights and hand measures to estimate the heights, and differences in heights, of other class members. They then describe their findings orally and in writing using language such as 'shorter than', 'taller', 'shortest'.

This activity should be done after the activity 'Estimating Metric Lengths', in which students learn to use parts of their hands as estimating tools for 10 cm, 20 cm and 1 cm.

The ideas modelled in this activity can also be adapted to compare lengths and widths of objects (longer, shortest, wider, narrowest), distances (furthest, nearer, closer) weights of various items (heavier, lightest) and sizes of containers (bigger, smallest).

13. Estimating metric volumes sample

This is a practical activity which uses estimation of the volume of household containers to introduce and/or reinforce the concept of volume, the units used to measure it and the relationship between them. It also allows students to examine the effectiveness and purpose of the different shapes used for packaging common supermarket items.

14. How heavy is that? sample

This practical and enjoyable activity uses a series of mystery parcels to give students some appreciation of weights in metric units. Familiar products of known weight are used as references for students to compare as they estimate the unknown weights. The activity is best carried out by small groups of up to five students. For larger classes it can be done in parallel with other measuring and/or problems solving activities to minimise the amount of equipment required.

15. Just a minute sample

In this activity students are encouraged to estimate the length of a minute and the number of things they can do in a single minute. It is an introductory activity designed to develop students’ awareness of time and begin further conversations about measuring, estimating and calculating with time. Extension activities have the potential to introduce the concept of rates such as metres or litres per minute.

16. Matching times sample

This activity contains several sets of matching cards designed for small groups of students to interact and share their existing knowledge of units of time. The sets range from relationships between units, such as years, months and days, to matching analogue, digital and 24 hour time. They vary in complexity so that appropriate sets can be selected appropriately for your students.

Matching tasks like this are the least threatening numeracy tasks to use because most of the answers are there on the table, which minimises writing. They are ideal as introductory and/or revision activities, since they allow you to observe students' knowledge whilst encouraging them to cooperate and discuss numeracy ideas.

17. Back to back times sample

This pair activity is designed to encourage reading, speaking and listening for telling analogue time in English from realistic clock diagrams.

As a pair activity it is:

  • A non-threatening way to encourage students to read times aloud

  • A means of fostering interaction between students

  • A useful activity to add variety to a long session

  • An activity which can be revisited at regular intervals

  • Especially useful if English is not the students’ first language.

A suggested extension to this activity utilises the clock diagrams and a ‘lucky dip’ as an enjoyable way to practise calculating time intervals.

18. Converting units in context sample

In this activity students make a variety of measurements related to realistic contexts and use them to perform calculations that involve converting between units of measurement. The various questions should stimulate engaging discussion and encourage estimation, and visualisation of measurements.

19. Metric quizzes sample

This activity contains a series of multiple choice 'quizzes', intended to be used for revisiting previously learned facts about the metric system. They are designed in 'quiz' format to differentiate from other learning activities and perhaps motivate students to try and remember the metric facts. The quiz procedure could be modelled on 'trivia quiz night using a series of rounds and having students compete in teams or pairs. The quizzes contain a mix of metric knowledge and some conversion and calculation. Using a team or pair approach will encourage valuable discussion and comparison amongst students, but the quizzes are also usable for individual revision if required.