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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One of my favorite activities

One of my all time favorite activities in my math classroom is when my class gets to play Measurement Wars!  Often times my 5th, 6th and 7th graders really struggle with measurement - customary, metric, ballpark figures - you name it, it's difficult for them.  My kiddos also get very frustrated when they struggle.  I've never taught Measurement Wars in a resource class before, so I was interested in how the activity would go...

So, my kiddos came in, and I had set the room up in groups of two with desk facing each other.  I told them they could sit wherever they wanted but to choose their partners wisely (they know this means pick someone that won't get them in trouble or that they won't goof around with).  One girl said, "hey this is how we sat when we played that one game with the fractions at the top" and then wanted to know if they were going to play the same game.  I told them that it was going to be very similar except that they may get a bit frustrated. We talked about how the fraction cards had a fraction at the top so they could make a quick comparison and that this game required a bit more thinking and understanding.  (Side note:  I really like being open and honest with my kiddos about levels of frustration - I think being in resource is already hard, and being handed a hard activity without being warned only adds to frustration!) Anywho, we talked about labels (cups, feet, etc) and how it's very hard to compare two different labels.  We also talked about how many times we can make ballpark comparisons with weird classroom objects (32 staplers vs 5 house keys) and sometimes the measurements are closer and we have to do actual conversions (4 pints vs 9 cups).  I also gave them my NEW Measurement Made Easy posters stapled together as a resource for them to use

Available in Capacity, Length, Mass AND Bundled!
After I debriefed them, I handed the activity over to them - 1 group worked with Mass, 1 with length, 2 with capacity. Some of the conversations that happened next were AMAZING. 

Students sorted their cards and started to play the game, and it happened.  They flipped the first card and looked at me like "Mrs. R.... help?!"  So I did just that... we worked on using the posters and making it real!

3.5 grams (that's about 4 paperclips) vs. 24 ounces (that's about 24 house keys) --- "Oh, the keys!" - "Yep!  See how easy this can be?"

This group of three (had to do three b/c someone was absent and I couldn't be a partner today -- too many questions!) had one of my two favorite questions that turned into mini-lessons.  

2500 grams vs 10 milligrams vs 40 kilograms.  Instead of converting them all to grams (what most people would do) we went an unconventional way.  10 milligrams - a very, very small flake off of a piece of medicine. 2500 grams - 2500 paperclips.  40 kilograms - 40 textbooks.  There was actually a debate between the paperclips and the textbooks.  Surprisingly being head of the math department came in SUPER handy for this (see below)- why yes, I do happen to have 2500 paperclips in that crazy mess!  So we used the supplies to help us decide.

We also used more of those goodies to help with another problem - 2.5kg vs 2000 pounds.  Again, we went wtih about 3 textbooks vs 2000 staplers.  The kiddos thought that 2000 staplers were heavier....another impromptu mini lesson!  The kiddos laughed when I said "well let's see!" One even asked, "Mrs. R, do you really have 2000 staplers?!"  I laughed and said no but I do have pencils.  So we got creative!

I had the kiddos line up at the back of the room and I handed them a pencil and stapler to pass around.  They looked at me like I'm crazy (I am, but that's a completely DIFFERENT post) and I asked which was heavier - a pencil, or a stapler.  They agreed it was a sstapler.  So then I asked, what's heavier 2000 pencils or 2000 staplers... debate occurred.  I let them talk it out for a minute and they agreed that 2000 staplers was heavier. Then I had them stick out their arms and I placed the large cardboard box below in their arms.  I didn't let them hold on to the box themselves (it was 30 pounds).  Immediately they were SUPER surprised at how heavy 2000 pencils were.  AND they quickly realized that 2000 staplers WAS indeed  heavier than 2-3 text books. 

After we had out little mini lessons, they started to get the hang of the game. I started hearing conversations like "15 pinky fingers is not as tall as a baseball bat, so 1 meter is larger than 15 centimeters" -- this made me do little jumps of joy!  The kiddos were working on their own, and trying to think for themselves.  It was such a victory for them... and many of them didn't even realize it. I can't wait to go back in tomorrow and hear the conversations that occur!  

If you are interested in Measurement Wars or Measurement Made Easy, check out the links below!

Measurement Made Easy Bundle (links to the individual posters in the description)
Measurement Wars Bundle (again, links to individual games in the description)

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!!


  1. Great idea - what a fabulous lesson!


    1. Thanks, Lynn... we've really enjoyed this week!

  2. I love this idea. We usually compare measurement cards as a class but I love the ideas of doing it as a game of war. Your product looks great!

    1. Wow! Thanks so much! I love how interactive the kiddos have to get with this one! They really have to think about which one is bigger - lots of real world lessons! Thanks for stopping in!

  3. You don't know how much this math teacher was smiling while reading this blog post. YOU TOTALLY ROCKED IT!

    Jennifer Smith-Sloane

    1. Awww, thanks so much, friend! It was great, nerdy, fun!

  4. What a cool idea. I never thought of using "real world" amounts of objects when comparing units. I like this as a lead-in to conversions so they have an idea in their minds about if their answer should be more or less after computing. Thanks for this idea; I pinned your product!

  5. What an amazing teacher you are...and writer! Reading your post was like I was there, standing in the corner and taking your wonderful lesson and teaching style all in! :)

  6. This is a super cute idea! I may adapt it for my classroom :) I'm thinking logarithms...


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