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8 Real-World Project-Based Challenges for Teaching Measurement in Upper Elementary

Teaching measurement has never been more fun when you use these 2 review activities and 8 real-world, project-based challenges with your upper elementary or middle school students.

Teaching Measurement

Whether you’re cooking, building, or running, measurements are an integral part of your life which makes teaching measurement in upper elementary super important.

Measurements are typically taught in a sequence that begins with recognition and vocabulary and ends with conversion and application. 

We often begin by teaching students the different units and vocabulary they will need to know, then show them how the units relate to other units (oz to gallons, inches to feet, etc.), and then we work on both identifying the units and converting them. 

Learning about measurements can be fun, and creating an atmosphere that is genuine and authentic is easy when it comes to measurements. In this blog post, we aim to supplement you as you teach measurement in your upper elementary class.  We have included 2 resources that will give students opportunities to practice recognizing and converting different units of measurement + 8 real-world challenges to help your students apply their new skills.

1 | Measurement Task Cards

These 32  task cards come with a board game and ask students to solve problems related to measurement. 

The  task cards cover measurement topics such as:

  • measuring with both cm and inches!
  • choosing the appropriate unit of measurement
  • converting measurements
  • adding and subtracting measurements
  • solving problems with measurement

These task cards can be used in centers, with small groups, or even as a full-class activity for teaching measurement. Students will apply all they’ve learned about measurement by answering questions from real-world scenarios.

2 | Converting Measurement Game Show

This interactive game show with a scoreboard includes 25 questions for students regarding converting measurements. This game show activity is great for reviewing measurements and prepping for an assessment over measurements. 

If you are still teaching online, consider sharing your screen, using breakout rooms, and making the Converting Measurement Game Show a full class competition.

If your students LOVE the games show, consider using game shows for your reviews in other units too. Check out all of the Fun in 5th Grade games shows by clicking this link.

The activities above provide students with the opportunity to practice recognizing and converting measurements, but once students know the different types of measurements and conversions, you may consider one of the challenges below to apply their skills in a hands-on way.

Teaching Measurement with Real-Life Examples

#1: Wrapping presents

Provide students with one roll of wrapping paper and a stack of presents to wrap. Every group has the same number of presents that are all the same size (consider using boxes to keep everything consistent.) Challenge the students to figure out the best way to wrap the presents so that

  1. the most presents wrapped, and…
  2. the least amount of wrapping paper is wasted.

The hardest part…students only get one roll of paper, so they only get one shot at wrapping as many presents as possible. This means they need to do a lot of planning in advance to make sure they make the right cuts.

Challenge the students to develop multiple ideas and solutions before deciding on the best one.

#2: Baking cookies

If you have access to an oven, this project can be one that is super applicable to real-life.

Each group will receive the ingredients for a batch of cookies, but they will only be allowed to use two measuring cups or measuring spoons. Before they begin, each group will read the recipe and decide which two measuring utensils they think would work best. Once they have decided as a group, they will set off to putting together the dough and measuring out the correct number of cookies on trays. We want to be as accurate to the original recipe as possible. If you have access to enough ovens, students can bake them right then and there, if you don’t, bake them later in the day, and bring in the finished products. 

Students are practicing measurement and adding and subtracting fractions. Add a little ‘spice’ to this unit by asking students to multiply or divide the recipe. Another way to make this project more interesting is by having students complete the project TV show style, recording and explaining their decisions for the camera.

To extend this activity, blend it with #5 on this list!

#3: Building a gingerbread house template (from scratch)

If you’ve ever built a gingerbread house, you know that getting all the pieces to the exact size will make or break your gingerbread house (literally).

Challenge your students to create a printable template for a gingerbread house. It should include at least 4 sides, a roof, and a chimney. Once students have the templates created, ask community members, parents, grandparents, or even the high school Family Consumer Sciences class to make the gingerbread houses using the templates your class provided and give the groups feedback complete with pictures, so students can rework their designs and instructions. Then students can try again.

#4: Creating a floor plan for furniture

Give students a floor plan for a new house, and the dimensions for the furniture that needs to fit within the house. (Hint: You can just send them to links on any furniture store’s website.) Students will need to figure out the dimensions of the room, the furniture dimensions, and decide if the furniture will fit in the new house. This means it has to be able to get through doors, fit in the room, and have adequate walking space. 

#5: Purchasing the perfect amount of food

This one is not for the faint of heart but is all about reducing waste, meal-planning, and thinking ahead.

Provide students with two weeks of meal plans and recipes, ask them to use the meal plans to create two weekly grocery deliveries. The goal is to get the right amount of groceries to create the meals provided but have the least amount of overall waste after the two weeks are complete. 

Students will have to observe and note the different ingredients in the recipes to make an accurate shopping list. Again this requires students to add and subtract fractions, convert measurements, and problem solve the best solution to an everyday problem.

#7: Purchasing wood for a shelving project

Ask students to design a storage shelf that has ‘x’ number of shelves, and is made with a certain type of material. From there, students will create a plan, a cut list for the hardware store, and a purchase order.

Again, students are looking to have the least amount of waste, best overall prices (this will factor in as they decide the length of the boards they want to purchase), and the accuracy of the measurements.

Collaborate with others in your district by asking the woodworking class at the high school to review your students’ designs and give feedback. Another option is to ask a local hardware store or contractor to review the designs. Students may be able to design a shelf that reduces waste and is inexpensive, but if it can’t stand up, that’s a problem that they need to know and be able to fix.

#8: Creating a scale model or drawing

This is another idea that can be done in a day. Ask students to create a scale model of the classroom on graph paper.

Hand them all tape measures and pencils and let them go. Use a simple scale like 1 block= 1 foot or ¼ inch=1 foot. Students have to consider the size of the items in the room, but also the space between the items.

Elevate this project, by asking them to create an actual physical scale model to share with the class. Their physical scale models could be built out of a lot of different craft items, scraps, and found items from around the classroom and their house. Ask your school’s custodians to start saving boxes for you. It’ll save them a trip to the recycling bin, and your students will have materials for their models.

We hope these ideas inspire you to try some new activities. As you consider how you will teach measurement this year, think about the challenges on this list and how you may incorporate them into your unit. Any one of these could be completed after you work through your normal measurement unit and review activities (like the ones above), or you can take a project-based approach and let students learn the measurements through the challenges. Either way, students will have ample opportunity to apply their skills.

Leave a Comment:

Have you tried any of these challenges before? How did your students do? We’d love to know. Leave your experience in the comments below! Find out how I organize my math block here.

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