Making Measurements: How Big is Your Hand?

What You Need:

  • Paper clips or a tape measure
  • 1 piece of graph paper per person
  • Two small bowls
  • Lima or red beans
  • 1 glass jar with a wide mouth
  • Water
  • Permanent marker or masking tape
  • Blank paper for recording
  • Pencil or markers

What You Do:

  1. Ask your child if he can think of a reason why it might be important to know one’s hand size. Your child may mention that it is important to know the size of your hand when purchasing gloves or mittens.
  2. Show your child the measurement tools you’ve assembled and tell him that he is going to measure his hand in 4 different ways. Place a heading on the recording sheet: “My Hand Size”. Divide the recording sheet into 4 sections and label them as listed: length, area, capacity, and volume.
  3. Measuring length: Use the paper clips to make a paper clip chain or use the tape measure to measure the length of your child’s right hand. Start at the wrist and end at the tip of the longest finger. Count the number of paper clips or inches if using the measuring tape. Record the information on the recording sheet.
  4. Measuring Area: Use the graph paper for this portion of the activity. Help your child place his right hand on the sheet of graph paper with the palm down and his fingers closed. Trace around his closed hand with a pencil or marker.  Help your child count the number of squares his hand covers. Discuss a method for counting the partial squares. For example, if most of a square is covered does it count as one? Or can you combine 2 half squares to make one whole square? Record the information on the recording sheet.
  5. Measuring Capacity: Fill one small bowl with beans. Tell your child to pick up a handful of beans and see how many he can hold in his right hand without dropping any. Have your child empty the beans into the empty bowl and count them to find out his hand's capacity, or how many beans he can hold in his right hand. Record the information on the recording sheet.
  6. Measuring Volume: Place some water in the glass jar and mark the water line with a piece of masking tape or a permanent marker. Tell your child to use his right hand to make a fist. Submerge his fist into the water up to his wrist and record the new water line with masking tape. The amount of water between the two lines is a measure of the volume of your child’s fist. Try pouring this amount into a measuring cup to see the volume of your child’s fist in fluid ounces. Record the information on the recording sheet.
  7. Encourage your child to use a piece of paper to reflect on the activity by writing down his observations after making the four measurements of his hand.

For a challenge activity, have your child measure his left hand and make comparisons. Are the measurements the same for both hands? You can also encourage your child to help another family member make the same four measurements. Compare the results to his results. Did a family member with a larger hand have a smaller or bigger hand size capacity than your first grader?

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