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Millions to Measure

Measuring Marvels
based on Millions to Measure
by David Schwartz
Grades: All Grades

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About the Book
David Swartz's Millions to Measure is a delightful introduction to the history and development of both the standard and metric systems of measurement. Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician will take students on a journey to explore the invention of length, weight, and volume measurements. How tall is Moonbeam, the unicorn? How long are the whiskers of Jello, the cat? And just how heavy is that darling hog? Tons, and teaspoons, and ounces, and feet, and yards, and miles what a headache! With another wave of the wand, Marvelosissimo introduces students to the world of metrics and makes is easy to understand the basic pattern of meters, liters, and grams.

This book is a great start to a unit on measurement. Don't miss the great metric system facts and information in the back of the book.

Set the Stage

• Ask your students to share what they know about measurement. Ask them to brainstorm a list of measurement units and have them describe when those units are used.
• Discuss with students the difference between volume, length and mass. Ask them to brainstorms instances wherein they might need to know length mass and volume.
• Give students a list of random objects (cotton balls, combs, pencils) and ask them to discuss whether or not they feel these objects would make good units of measurement. Have students explain why they feel these objects would work (or not).
• Have your students imagine that they live in a world where there are no systems of measurement. Ask them to brainstorm the different things they might realistically use to create a system of measurement.

Use these questions to measure your students understanding of measurement from the book.

  • What was first used to measure distance? Why did using a person's foot not work well for measuring distance?
  • What was one of the first ways to measure weight? Why did stones create a problem when measuring the weight of an object?
  • Review with students different units of measurement and what they are each used to measure:

    Inches, feet, yards, miles — Used to measure distance
    Ounces, pounds, tons — Used to measure weight
    Fluid ounces, cups, pints, quarts, gallons — Used to measure volume
  • Have students come up with items that could be measured with each of the different units of measure above.
  • If your focus is the metric system, review the metric units of measurement:
    Meter, millimeter, centimeter, decimeter — Used to measure distance
    Liter, milliliter — Used to measure volume
    Gram, milligram, kilogram — Used to measure weight
  • Discuss with your students the importance of a common system of measurement within a culture. What are the benefits and drawbacks of a world-wide system?

Student Activity
Students will try out their measuring skills and sharpen their knowledge of differents unit of measures.

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Related Activities
Extend your students understanding of measurement systems with these activities:

  • Have student explore some less well known units of measurement including the bushel, hand, fathom, league, Kelvin, knot, cord, gigawatt and koku (Japanese). Have them identify other interesting units of measurement.
  • Create a Measuring Lab where you create separate areas for students to measure items for Distance, Weight and Volume. Students can work in teams of two; one can measure and the other can record the measurement.
  • Have students practice measuring length in standard units with this fun activity.
    Inch by Inch Grades: K–2
  • Have students solve the Math Maven's Mystery that will test their skills in metric measurement.
    Race Against Captain Devious! Grades: 3–5, 6–8
  • Americans outside of the scientific community have long resisted the total integration of the metric system. Ask your students why they think Americans have resisted the metric system. Explain to the students that, despite resistance, the metric system has found its way into our everyday lives. Ask them to brainstorm a list of ways in which the metric system has infiltrated American culture.
  • Pretend that you are an insect traveling through the rainforest. Write a story about your travels that incorporates as many different units of measurement (metric, standard or otherwise) as possible. Be creative!