Math Background

Measuring and Comparing Length, Weight, and Capacity: Tips and Tricks

  • Look for opportunities during the school day to reinforce the concepts of longer, taller, and shorter; longest, tallest, and shortest; heavier and lighter; and holds more or holds less. For example, have children line up according to height. Have them identify which backpack is heavier or lighter. Have them choose the bottle that holds the most water, and so on.
  • Store items for nonstandard measurement, such as toothpicks, cut straws, paper clips, and crayons, in plastic bags for easy storage and distribution.
  • Give a group of children different kinds of nonstandard units (paper clips, crayons, toothpicks, and so on.) with which to measure the same item. Have them predict which unit they will use more of and which they will use less of when measuring length.
  • Give children cube trains made with 4 to 10 cubes and ask them to find items in the classroom that are about the same length as the train. Have them record their findings with words or pictures and compare their results. Later, give children rulers and have them find objects that are a specified length in inches or centimeters.
  • Provide children with as many opportunities as possible to measure real objects. The more hands-on experiences children have with measuring, the better they will become at it.
  • Ask children to gather objects such as stones, sticks, shells, and pine cones to use for exploring the concept of weight. Have children compare pairs of objects first to each other and then to a pound weight.
  • Set up a table with a balance and small but relatively heavy items such as rocks, golf balls, and fishing weights, as well as large but relatively light items such as beach balls, balloons, and large paper bags. Have children compare the weight of the items. Have them line up the items from smallest to largest and then from lightest to heaviest. Guide them to see that larger items do not necessarily weigh more than smaller items.
  • Using water and sand, prepare a center that focuses on capacity. Provide containers in a variety of shapes and sizes. Have children organize the containers into groups with about the same capacity and then compare the shapes and heights of the containers within each group. Guide them to see how the height and shape of containers affects their capacities. Then have them order all the containers from least to greatest capacity.

Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 1