Interactive Activities for Teaching Measurement

Linear Measurement is one of the math units that I really enjoy teaching. What's not to love - we get to use measuring tools, there are tons of real-life applications, you get to send your students scurrying around the school measuring objects and people. You get to try and point out the difference between perimeter and area over and over and over again. Sigh. Oh yeah, there are a few glitches when teaching measurement.

Last year I tried really hard to address some of the common misconceptions and difficulties my students encountered (year after year) during our measurement unit. I really tried to focus on 3 main problem areas:

1. what does it REALLY mean to measure
2. how to compare units of measurement
3. the difference between perimeter and area

Of course, I had to have a fun theme to tie it all together. So we had measurement monsters.

On the first day students brainstormed all the ways we could measure a monster. I displayed the monster on our screen but also had a monster stuffed animal (helpful for thinking about mass).
Then I directed the conversation into linear measurement. We created an anchor chart showing what we knew at the start of the unit. Then I gave each student a copy of the monster and had them measure the monster anyway they wanted. I wanted to check out their skills at using a ruler and recording their measurements (shockingly many did not record the unit of measurement and we still struggle with where to start on the ruler!! Ugh).
The next day we tried to work on what measurement really is: the comparison of an object to a known unit - it is not using a ruler. A ruler is not necessary at all!! We just need a known unit (paper clip, straw, centimeter, meter) and use it to make a comparison. We used this little activity with broken rulers to get a better understanding of how to measure.

No, I did not chew on and break all of our rulers!! I gave students paper rulers that had only part of the numbers from 3 cm to 7 cm  or the ruler started at 11 cm to 15 cm. They had to figure out how they could use the ruler to measure. This lead to some great discussion and brainstorming.

Next we worked on selecting the best unit of measurement for objects in our world - a great way to develop benchmark measurements.
Students created their own interactive note for each unit of measurement. On each ruler they wrote an object they would measure with that unit (some even included an estimate - smarties!!)
Then the best day of all. We had a Monster Mash Game Show. There were two monster contestants. Each thought their unit of measurement was longer. Students had to construct the measurement, compare the measurement and prove who had the longer measurement. Students worked in pairs (Contestant A and B). Of course some people had cards with cm or dm or m!!
We used meter sticks, classroom rulers, centimeter cubes and base ten blocks to build our models.
We continued this activity by using the cards to do independent practice in our notebooks. We also created this note for our books.

Next we moved on to perimeter and area.
Students created their own monster - but it is a monster - it need to be in a cage! So we could figure out the area and perimeter of the cage!! Check out the heart monster : )

Next we created these one-eyed monsters, placed them around the classroom and found the perimeter of the object. They were placed on desks, charts, nametags. They were everywhere!! This lead to another great discussion on how the unit we use to measure effects the answer - some measured with centimeter cubes other with square counters.
Then it was time to build our monsters out of modelling clay. These monsters needed a home so we made plans for a Monster Manor. Students designed a floor plan and calculated area for the manor and each room.

All in all we had a great time and I feel that this was my most successful year teaching measurement concepts. If you want to check these activities out they are available in my TpT store.
Click on the picture to check them out.


  1. Wow! I love all of this! And I HATE teaching measurement!!! Hate it. But I love the problem you gave them with them with the broken rulers! That's an awesome idea! And I've never thought about the word rim in perimeter. At least I don't think I have! Thanks for all of this! Would this unit be good for my 4th graders?

    You rock!!

  2. We start measurement Monday...and in three weeks we are supposed to be able to measure length, weight and volume in metric and customary. And know the difference between perimeter and area. Who writes these math series? (Oh, and the math book throws in a broken ruler question on the test even though they don't teach it.)

    Your monster unit is engaging! Might have to buy it stat. Do you want to make one for customary measurement? :-)


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