Looking for fun measurement tips, tricks, and math lessons for estimating lengths? I’ve rounded up my top 10 activities and ideas for you to use with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade students!
Estimating Length Lesson Tips & Tricks
Start by Building an Anchor Chart: Grab your chart paper and write a few standard measurements to help with estimating lengths for 1 inch, 1 foot, and 1 yard. For each measurement, give one example for each.
One inch is about the length of a paperclip. One foot is the length of a tile on the floor. If your school doesn’t have a floor with tiles, you can write the length of a ruler. One yard is about the length of a guitar or width of a door.
Practice Non-Standard Measurement Estimation: Before pulling out measurement tools, use non-standard measurement items like Legos, paperclips, string, pipe cleaners, and connecting cubes. Give students a paperclip for understanding one inch, or cut pieces of string that are one foot long. Let students walk around the classroom and find objects that are about the same length. Add these objects to your estimating length measurement anchor chart.
Compare to Known Objects: Encourage students to compare an object’s length to something they already know the size of. This is especially helpful after you’ve practiced the previous tip with non-standard measurements!
For example, once students know the length of a paperclip is one inch, they can use that to help them with estimating length for a pencil or marker.
Body Measurements: Students won’t always have a measurement tool always with them, that’s why it’s so helpful to teach them how to use parts of their own body as a measurement tool!
- One Centimeter: width of your pinky finger
- One Inch: length from the tip of your thumb to your first knuckle
- One Foot: Length from your elbow to your fingertips
- One Yard: Length from wrist to wrist (when your arms are spread apart)
- One Meter: Length from fingertips to finger tips (when your arms are spread apart)
Grab this free measurement poster at the end of this blog post!
Group Estimation Activities: Encourage group activities where kids can discuss and collectively estimating the length of various objects. Make a few slides like the one below to let students discuss. This allows them to learn from each other’s estimations.
Find an Object Activity: Give each student a ruler or measuring tool and send students to find an object that meets certain criteria. For example, tell students they have 2-3 minutes to find an object in the classroom that is 6 inches long. When time is up, gather students and share findings. Do this with any measurement!
Build a Ruler: This is one of my favorite measurement activities because it’s a fantastic transition from non-standard measurement to actual measurement units. Students will color, cut, and glue to build their own ruler. Encourage students to use two colors to color the inches on their ruler. I suggest printing these on thicker paper like card stock, and if you have time, laminate them! Students can reuse these over and over during your measurement unit.
Use Grids or Paper: Provide grid paper and have students lay the object on the paper, marking the endpoints. Then they can count the squares to estimate the length. Quickly type into Google “1-centimeter grid paper” or “1-inch grid paper” and you’re all set!
Play Guess & Check: When students get better with estimating length, play guess and check! In this activity, students will guess the length of an object and then find the actual measurement. I like to have students write their estimations in a pen or marker to discourage students from changing their estimations.
Estimating Length Measurement Math Centers: Practice measuring and estimating length with these five different math centers including task cards, classroom measurement hunts, and more! Students will practice measuring in inches and centimeters to estimate length.