Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Clips, Cards, Rocks and Rulers

Lara Weeks
Bay District Schools


Students work in pairs to use standard and non-standard tools to measure classroom objects. Partners compare data and respond to a journal prompt that provides application to real-world situations.


The student knows that a uniform unit is needed to measure in real-world situations (for example, length, weight, time, capacity).


- [How Big is a Foot], Rolf Myller, Econo-Clad Books; ISBN: 0833568531; (October 1999)
- Data Chart, one copy per student (see associated file)
- Standard ruler, one per student
- Small objects for non-standard measurement, one for each child with a few extra for choice (example; paper clips, playing cards, used pencils, chalk, rocks, counters, sticky notes, straws, crayons, erasers)
- Math Journals


1. Acquire a copy of the book, [How Big is a Foot] by Rolf Myller,
2. Gather materials for standard and non-standard measurement activity. rulers, paper clips, playing cards, used pencils, chalk, rocks, counters, sticky notes, straws, crayons, erasers
3. Make copies of the data chart for each student.


1. Ask the students, “ How big is a foot? Does it matter that everyone’s foot is not the same size?” Allow time for discussion. Then ask the students to listen to a story that tells about a time when the size of feet caused big problems. Read the book, [How Big is a Foot?] By Rolf Myller as an introduction to standard and nonstandard units of measurement.

2. Discuss problems from the book that were caused by non-standard measurement tools. Have students name several items that could be used in the classroom as non-standard measurement tools. Identify a ruler as a standard measurement tool.

3. Explain to the students that they will be measuring objects in the classroom using standard and non-standard tools. Demonstrate to remind students that correct measurements are made when the left edge of the tool is lined up on the left side of the object being measured.

4. Distribute activity materials. (rulers, non-standard tools, chart for recording measurement from associated file)

5. Pairs of students will choose 5 objects in the classroom to measure. Each student will measure the objects using a standard tool (rulers). Next, the students will measure the same 5 objects using a variety of non-standard tools (paperclips, pencils, erasers). Record the measurements on charts.

6. Encourage the partners to compare the data on the charts. Ask guiding questions to help students clarify the information. For example; Did you both gather the same data when measuring like objects with rulers? Did you both gather the same data when using non-standard measurment tools? How was your data different? How was your data alike? Can you think of a time when you would need to have the exact same measurement as your partner?

7. Pass out math journals. Write prompt on the board and read it to the class. (Prompt: You have worked with a partner to measure items in our classroom using standard and nonstandard tools. Tell your reader how standard units of measurement are needed in real-world situations.) Students respond in the journals.

8. As students complete journal assignments, circulate and offer formative feedback.


Note: This lesson instructs and assesses use of standard and non-standard measurement of length only. Use completed charts to formatively assess student’s ability to use standard and non-standard tools to measure objects. Conference with students and formatively assess the journal response.

Attached Files

A chart that is used to record measurement data.     File Extension: pdf

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