Concept and Measurement of Temperature
In initial temperature activities children learn terms such as “hot” and “cold.” At the preschool or kindergarten level children learn to sequence or order the seasons of the year and discuss what types of temperatures to expect during each season. The thermometer is introduced at around the first-grade level. School thermometers are usually marked in both degrees Celsius (C) and degrees Fahrenheit (F). A beginning activity might involve children matching a picture of a thermometer showing a temperature such as 80 °F (27 °C) to a scene of either a sunny summer day or a blustery winter day. The topic of temperature can be useful in introducing other mathematical topics such as decimals. Almost every first-grade child can explain the significance of 98.6 °F.
By the second grade, children learn to read specific temperatures from a given picture or model of a thermometer. They also perform activities such as coloring thermometers to illustrate a given temperature and use subtraction to calculate changes in temperature. Many third-grade textbook series introduce negative temperatures such as 10 °C. At this level children learn the facts that water freezes at 32 °F (0 °C) and boils at 212 °F (100 °C). They also learn to estimate using temperatures without looking at a thermometer—“It is 25 °C outside. Which is more appropriate: a coat or shorts?” With no thermometer to look at, this decision must be based on an interpretation of the numerical temperature alone.
At around the fourth- or fifth-grade level, children learn to use ratios to calculate the temperature on one scale when given a numerical value on another scale.
Both topics, time and temperature, will provide natural connections to other subjects. Temperature is often used in science experiments. Time lines occur frequently in social studies. It is a common exercise to calculate the length of time between two historical events. Students can research information on time zones when studying other states and countries. You will find many other natural occurrences of these topics in real-life situations and within the classroom curriculum.
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