Measurement Misconceptions

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

One of the big misconceptions when kiddos measure with a ruler is what is called tick counting. What that means is that instead of counting the units between the ticks on the ruler, kids count the tick marks instead. It’s important that kids have LOTS of practice measuring with nonstandard units to prevent the tick counting error. When they measure using, for example, paper clips, there are no tick marks, so they realize the unit is the length of the paper clip. A line segment is 5 paper clips long.

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Inch color tiles are a good transition from nonstandard units to a ruler because kids can use both the color tiles and a ruler to measure the length of objects. The measurements should match!

‘Broken rulers’ are a great way to assess if students really understand how to correctly use a ruler. I made a little freebie that you can use with your kids. Copy the first page (the one with the rulers) on cardstock and cut the rulers apart. You might want to laminate them for repeated use in your classroom. Each student, or pair of students, will only need one of the rulers. The second page has several line segments they can measure with the rulers. I threw in a little problem-solving at the bottom of the sheet. After practicing with the broken rulers using the line segments, you could always have the kids do a scavenger hunt in the room (find three things that are about 2 inches long, etc.).

Broken Ruler NewClick here to grab yours!

Looking for more measurement practice?  Try my Measurement Conversions unit with both print and digital versions!

12 Comments

  1. Curious Catherine

    LOVE IT! You’ve got a valid point. If they can measure with these rulers… correctly… then they can honestly measure.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Exactly! An interesting discussion would be that their rulers all appear to be the same length, yet all have different numbers.

      Reply
  2. Curious Catherine

    LOVE IT! You’ve got a valid point. If they can measure with these rulers… correctly… then they can honestly measure.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I’m going to use this activity to review measuring length as we prepare for our end of the year test. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Glad it’s helpful!!

      Reply
  4. Keri

    i’ll be trying this out tomorrow…i absolutely love your blog and will be following along with your book study (can’t buy the book at this time)
    thank you!!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks, Keri! “See” you on Monday for the book study. 🙂

      Donna

      Reply
  5. Mrs. Brown

    I will be using this later in the year in our measurement unit. We have done a similar lesson where each group is given a ruler broken at different points and the each need to measure a notecard. They share their measurement findings and we discuss why some measurements are different than others if everyone’s cards are the exact same. Great discussions!
    Erin
    http://adventuresinthirdgrade-brown.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Love it! I’ll be that does generate good discussions. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Tammy

    A broken ruler is a great way to see if they understand what they’re doing. Brilliant. Thanks so much.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

    Reply
    • Tammy

      Donna, I finally had a chance to use your broken ruler idea. I just blogged about it. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

      Reply

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