Our theme for December is The Human Body. As I was thinking about different projects and lessons I could bring to the classroom, as well as how to teach this theme in a cross-curricular fashion, I immediately thought of math and measurement. It is a natural extension, and an mathematical area that all children would benefit from. Most students have not had enough experience with nonstandard units, and therefore have an incomplete understanding of measurement. I hope to provide more of these experiences as well using the lessons as a bridge into familiar standard units of measuring length. An additional connection is measurement in ancient cultures, so this will have a historical hook as well.
For children in my math group, our first lessons this week will have students using historical nonstandard units (digits, hand, cubit, yard, foot, pace, fathom) to estimate the lengths of common objects and then measure using modern standard units. They will discover the usefulness of standardized measurement units and tools. I will begin by reading a book many of heard before, called How Big Is a Foot. It is a funny story of a king who wants to have a bed made for his wife, the queen. He measures her width and length with his king-size feet, and give the measurements to a little apprentice who uses his little feet as the unit. Of course the bed turns out to be much too small. Although this is a fictional story, it is based upon fact. Our standard unit of measure, the foot, actually did come from making a model of a king's foot and the standardized tool become known as a "ruler"!