Materials to Support Math and Measurement
In international comparisons, children in the United States score lower in measurement than in other mathematic standards. Their scores are also lower than their peers’ scores in other countries (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). Since the roots of learning measurement take place in the early years, it is important that we provide children measurement opportunities (Clements & Stephan, 2004).
In learning about measurement, children go through the following five stages (Copley, 2000; Herbert, 1984). They
- Learn that objects have measurement properties that can be described
- Compare objects using measurement terminology (heavier, shorter, etc.)
- Determine a process and unit to use for measuring different types of items
- Use standard units for measuring such as rulers and yardsticks
- Create and use formulas (Copley, 2000, p. 126)
Measurement is a set of complex skills and concepts that completely develop over a period of many years (Clements & Stephan, 2004). Typically, children are not able to successfully use all measuring tools or to create and use complex formulas until they are in the upper elementary grades. Research indicates that it is best if measurement activities begin with learning about length, developing concepts of “shorter,” “longer,” and “equal in length.” Children should first explore the concept of length through making direct comparisons between objects—for example, deciding which string of pop-together beads is longer by holding them side by side. After children understand length, you can introduce other measurement attributes, including weight, volume, area, time, and temperature.
Help children to learn about comparing properties of items and to use comparison vocabulary through the following materials:
- Items of different sizes to seriate such as nesting dolls to order from smallest to largest.
- Weight canisters to match (these can be created by using black or gray film canisters and placing different items in them). Make these self-correcting by placing identical stickers on the bottom of the canisters that match.
- Several identical jars with different amounts of liquid so children can seriate the jars by volume.
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