Methods and Strategies: Thinking Metricby: Donna R. Sterling

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Despite educators’ strong recommendation for teaching students measurement skills—and specifically the metric system—measurement continues to be among the lowest scoring mathematics content areas in the United States for students. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. This article provides a series of simple activities that can help students in grades 4-6 conceptualize metric units of measurement and thus improve their ability to think in metric units.

  • Elementary
  • Middle
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Reviews (5)
  • on Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:42 PM

This article was written to introduce some easy-to-use activities to help students in grades 4–6 conceptualize units of metric measurement. At first, having students observe and use a meter stick is a good way to introduce linear measurement using the metric system. The teacher can ask students to bring an object that is approximately a meter long to class, then measure and discuss their objects in groups. Also, having students use a ruler to measure a collection of premeasured objects, such as index cards, Popsicle sticks, and tongue depressors can help them familiarize themselves with centimeters. The students can self-check their measurement by using the answers provided by the teacher. For students, it is a great way to get immediate feedback and learn about measuring accurately. When it comes to learning about volume and capacity, students are supposed to bring in a one-liter object to class and discuss that different shapes can be the same volume. Also, The teacher can present a couple of multiple-choice questions that require students to think using metric units to assess students’ ability to think metrically. As a future educator, I would apply these methods and strategies in my future science class. Making students bring objects from home can involve their parents in their learning process. Also, connecting measurement to their lives can help students develop a better understanding of life science.

Zihan Shao
Zihan Shao

  • on Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:07 AM

I do agree that having students to measure things around them by using a meter stick is a great idea, which can cultivate the students' interests and give them opportunities to apply the knowledge what they learned effectively indeed, I think. Moreover, I also like the thought that involving the students' parents into the learning process. I believe that the interaction between students and their parents is beneficial to both of them. For parents, they can feel valuable, responsible and important. For children, it is an effective way to stimulate their curiosity and desire for knowledge.

Xiaomeng Ni
Xiaomeng Ni

  • on Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:00 PM

I read an article about measurement this week. The author offers some activities to help students “improve their ability to think in metric units.” (Sterling, 2006). Students should know how long is a meter by observing a meterstick. Then the teacher can require students to bring an object about one meter the next day. Placing the object on a table which is one meter long makes students easily check the object’s length. Students can discuss what do they think about their objects in groups. In this activity, students will have the awareness that how long is one meter and they will start to think about other metric units. To help students learn about volume and capacity, teachers can ask students to bring in an object that is one liter. Many students will bring one-liter water bottles. “However, a few students will bring in a two-liter bottle cut in half, usually horizontally but occasionally vertically” (Sterling, 2006). Students will have a discussion on how different shapes can be the same volume. The teacher can use various-sized containers and encourage students to predict the volumes for each one. The assessment such as multiple-choice questions is necessary. Students can find out correct answers according to their comprehension and observations. From my perspective, this kind of activities is beneficial for students to understand the length and capacity. They bring objects to class and have a deeper measurement. It also connects their daily lives and science topic in school. Teaching measuring metrically need teachers to design such appealing activities. Using appropriate assessments to assess their ability to think metrically is important as well.

Zhengyun Lu
Zhengyun Lu

  • on Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:20 PM

After I read this article, I learned that teachers can teach students measurement skills by doing activities. For example, when teachers teach students the concept of one meter, teachers can ask students to find and bring anything whose length is about one meter. Then, students should discuss the objects they brought in the classroom. After discussion, they can adjust the objects’ length. In this article, the author systematically introduces how to teach students to learn all kinds of measurement units. I think that teaching the measurement concepts from the easier ones to the difficult ones is a good way to teach students the metric system. After students learn about meters, which are the unit most used in our lives, I will then teach them Millimeter and Kilometer. Sterling (2006) says, “As students learn how scientists established the metric system, they become more aware of what scientists do and how they think and work,” which implies that the metric system is an important part of science. Therefore, teachers should know that science is not only a content area to learn, but is also a way of thinking and knowing. Teachers can develop students’ scientific knowledge from many aspects.

Yu Ni
Yu Ni

  • on Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:01 PM

Teachers have been struggling to have students understand metrics for years. This article provides several helpful articles whose goal is to do just that. This article focuses on activities that deal with length, volume and temperature. The author also provides some examples of helpful assessment questions.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

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