Young children are full of measurement questions. How long is it? How big is it? How far away is it? The answer is hard to explain without knowing measurement units. Understanding that measurement requires repeated use of a tool like a ruler is important for success in math and science.
Adults and children can measure distances between objects found at home using a non-standard measurement tool, your feet. This is called non-standard because everyone's feet are different.
For more math ideas see grandparentsteachtoo.org or listen to wnmufm live 4:30 Tuesdays and 8:35 a.m. Saturdays. Educator Mary Davis contributed this column.
ANDEREGG, MACALADY, FOX, HETRICK, KATERS
What to do
Trace an outline of an adult's foot on paper and cut it out. Explain how to use this tool to measure distance in your home. Define distance as the amount of space between two objects. Have the children choose an object in the room. Show them how to use the foot cutout to measure the distance from where you stand (your home base) to the object's location. Children can help by moving the cutout and keeping count. Record the results on a sheet of paper. Draw a picture of the destination piece and write the number of adult feet to get there.
Next, trace children's feet, cut them out, and label them with their names. Compare the children's little feet and adult's big feet. Have children measure the distance to the same object using their little feet as the measurement tool. Record those numbers on the paper using a different color crayon. Repeat using three more objects.
Ask questions such as: What did you notice when you measured the distance between our home base and the objects? Which object needed the most feet or the least? The farther away the object is, the more feet are needed.
How did the total number of children's feet compare with the adult's feet as a measurement tool? The shorter the foot, the more feet are needed to measure the distance.
What else can we do?
Measure the distance using other objects such as crayons, hands, or blocks. Cut an oval shape from paper. Add eyes, whiskers, and a yarn tail to make a mouse. How many mouse lengths does it take to get from point A to B?
In Richard Fowler's book, "Ladybug on the Move," use the cardboard ladybug to measure distances it travels in the garden. In "Super Sandcastle Saturday" by Murphy, children learn about standard units of measurement as they measure sandcastles with shovels and spoons.
Find a foot-long standard ruler and explain standard measurement. This foot is always the same, therefore standard. Keep rulers handy for children to measure their own structures and their height as they grow.
Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.