Two Ways to Approach Measurement Conversions - Math Coach's Corner

Two Ways to Approach Measurement Conversions

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.

Measurement conversions. Answer honestly, do those words scare you just a little? I’ve got two tried and true approaches to teaching measurement conversions, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me that one of them involves drawing models. Read on for my four-step process.

Consider this story: Sue needs two gallons of lemonade. The lemonade she wants to buy only comes in quart containers. How many quart containers will she need to buy?

Here’s the first weird thing I noticed that kids do when they try to solve a measurement conversion word problem. Often, they don’t even use the units from the story! The story above is asking about gallons and quarts, but I’ve seen kids look on their conversion charts for the conversion between quarts and pints. Huh? I’m still not sure I understand the reasoning behind that, but that’s where the first step in my process came from.

Step 1 is to write down what the problem is asking them to find. In this story, they are being asked to find the number of quart containers Sue needs to buy.

Step 2, they find a conversion for those units from the conversion chart (in Texas, students are provided a chart to use on the state test, and we use it all year long for practice). Looking at the chart, I find that 1 gallon = 4 quarts.

Step 3, they draw the conversion from the chart.

Step 4, they draw the numbers from the story. Try this out yourself! It also works great for more complicated conversions. Can you see, for example, how the drawing above could be used to find the quarts in 1 1/2 gallons?

While I love drawing models to find conversions, function tables are another magical tool for conversions. And the more tools we put in our kiddos’ toolboxes, the better, right. Consider the table shown below. The conversion is 1 quart = 2 pints, so the function is times 2. The function can be applied to different numbers of quarts.

Want to try out using tables with your class? Grab a FREEBIE here!

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