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McREL Standards Activity

Assessing the Physical World

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to understand and perform various types of measurements.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 4.Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement
   Level I [Grade K-2]
   Benchmark 1. Understands the basic measures length, width, height, weight, and temperature
 Standard 4.Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement
   Level I [Grade K-2]
   Benchmark 4. Makes quantitative estimates of familiar linear dimensions, weights, and time intervals and checks them against measurements
Student Product:Illustrated advertisement
Material & Resources:

  • Water
  • Rocks
  • Quadrilateral-shaped items, such as books, boards, blocks, boxes, etc.
  • Yardstick/tape measure
  • Rulers
  • 1 or 2 pan balances
  • Standard weights for the balance (if not available, use boxed and bagged products which have simple weights marked on them (e.g., a 1-lb. bag of potatoes)
  • 2-3 thermometers (most thermometers are no longer made with mercury; however, you may want to provide special supervision for using glass thermometers anyway)
  • Small, unbreakable containers such as plastic soda bottles, pint milk cartons, etc.
Teacher's Note:Students should already be familiar with the concepts of height, width, length, weight, and temperature.
Students will be investigating measuring and estimating a new type of measurement each day. This is done to maintain the student’s attention, and does not have to take long periods of time each day.

Each day’s activities are mainly intended for exploration of that particular measurement, without focusing on making exact measurements. If you want, however, and if students are old enough, you may create data sheets for students to record their observations.

For weighing, start by presenting the class with simple comparisons. Are the bigger items always the most heavy? Compare the weight of a relatively large cardboard box with that of a relatively small rock. But sometimes bigger does mean heavier: compare the weight of a big and a small rock.

Create a discussion by introducing various new items and having students guess how heavy they are. Students need not offer precise weights, but instead can compare them to known items. Pass around standard weights used in calibrating scales. Point out that the weight is marked on each weight and it never changes. Have students guess the weights of items again, comparing them to the known weights. Weigh the items on a pan scale (any scale may be used, but the pan scale is best for students, as it’s visually obvious to them when two objects weight the same) and compare the students’ estimates.

For measuring lengths, pass out various measuring devices: rulers, yardsticks, and tape measures. Discuss how long each one is. Which one is longest? Shortest? Have students identify objects in the classroom that would be good to measure with a certain device.

Have the students complete and discuss the following problems:

1. Have one student lie down against a wall. Take estimates for how many more students will it take to reach the opposite wall, then follow through the "measuring" with more students.

2. Choose two landmarks, either within the classroom, or outside (e.g., on the playground). Choose a point that’s close to the midpoint, but not quite. Have students discuss which point they’re closer to. Once most of the students have decided, discuss which measuring tool would be most appropriate to measure the distance. Choose a couple of students to work together and measure the distance (marking the measurement on the tool, instead of dealing with remembering the numbers). Measure to the other point and compare.

For temperature, make sure students understand safety rules for thermometers. Emphasize that students are not to use the alcohol-filled thermometers on people. Have several students fill a container halfway with varying temperatures of water from the tap and measure it. This is not to obtain precise degrees, but to gain an understanding of temperature. When they use cold water that they would drink, how high does the liquid in the thermometer move? What about warm water?

For a final product which emphasizes the estimation and being able to compare measurements (without actually measuring objects), they will be creating a sheet which will compare 3 objects for each measurement (weight, length, and temperature). They can use either pictures from magazines, and/or create ones of their own and rank each three according to which one is the lightest/heaviest, shortest/longest, and coldest/hottest. For example, for weight, they may find pictures of a pumpkin, an apple, and a box of cereal from a grocery advertisement and rank the order as apple, box of cereal, pumpkin.