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
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
Meter, millimeter, centimeter, decimeter Used
to measure distance
Liter, milliliter Used to measure volume
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?
Students will try out their measuring skills and sharpen their knowledge
of differents unit of measures.
and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)
Extend your students understanding of measurement systems with these
- 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
- 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
- Have students
practice measuring length in standard units with this fun activity.
by Inch Grades: K2
- Have students
solve the Math Maven's Mystery that will test their skills
in metric measurement.
Race Against Captain Devious!
Grades: 35, 68
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.
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.