Saturday, July 5, 2008

Broken Ruler Activity

A great activity that helps students to understand that measurement is not about reading numbers on the ruler but actually calulating an amount of space that an object takes up is called the "Broken Ruler" activity. A friend shared this with me a few years ago and I am always amazed and how difficult this is for students that struggle in math and measure. Here is what you do. Take a ruler and break both ends off so the students can not see the first or the last numbers on the ruler. This way they have no visual starting point and cannot rely on the number 1 to help them out. Next, take an object like a crayon or set of blocks and tape it to the top edge of the ruler at a starting number that they can see. So, if you broke the ruler off at the number 3, then tape the front end of the object at the number three as the straring point. The students have to give the measurement of how long the object is by finding a "starting" point on the ruler where the front of the object is and an "end" point where the object ends. Most students will assume that whereever the object ends is the lenght of the object. It a great activity for intermediate students. For primary students they make rulers without numbers on them. They are perfect for teaching measuring by counting space and not the numbers on the ruler.


Alvinette said...

This is a great activity to use to help students understand measurement. Using manipulatives is essential in any math program. The “Broken Ruler” activity allows students to use reasoning ability as a means of thinking logically. Students are able to see similarities and differences about calculating the amount of space that an object takes up. Students will be allowed to make choices based on the similarities and differences. Conclusions about the relationships with objects can be established as students explore various possibilities. As students become comfortable with using a ruler, mental math can be used. Estimation skills can also be applied before students actually measure the objects. Mental math and estimation are skills that students will use in everyday life. After the activity, students should discuss how measuring by counting space helped them to understand measurement.

Dr. G said...

This blog is an absolute great idea and way of sharing teaching tips. I love it! If you decide to continue with it, I believe you can get other teachers posting their math activities and who knows how big the blog will get.

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