Beacon Lesson Plan Library

How Do Your Students Measure Up?

Carol Spice
Santa Rosa District Schools


Have you ever been frustrated trying to show students how to measure accurately and what the little lines on a ruler represent? I was until I found this simple activity to show students how to properly measure with a standard ruler to 1/16th of an inch.


The student measures length, weight or mass, and capacity or volume using customary or metric units.

The student measures accurately with the measurement tools to the specified degree of accuracy for the task and in keeping with the precision of the measurement tool.


- Plain 8 1/2 X 11 paper (I use a different color for each class.)
- Pen or fine point marker
- Several common items to measure: textbook, pencil, a coin, etc.
- Standard ruler
- Notebook paper and pencil


1. Cut 8 1/2- x 11- paper into strips 8 1/2- long and 1 1/4- wide. Each student will need one strip. I use a different color for each class.
2. Decide on three items for the students to measure. I use a textbook, a pencil, and a coin.
3. Each student should have his or her own notebook paper, pencil, pen or fine tip marker, and standard ruler.


1. Introduction. This lesson can be done with students working individually or in pairs or small groups. I prefer with this lesson for students to work individually so that is the way I will present this lesson. Each student needs three items to measure. A textbook, a pencil, and a coin work well. Pass out a standard ruler to each student and have them assemble three items to measure.

2. Instruct each student to measure each item as accurately as they can to the nearest 16th of an inch, and then write the item and the results on his/her notebook paper. I find most students do not know how to measure to 1/16th of an inch. Give them a few minutes, and tell them to do the best they can. They will have an opportunity to change their answers later.

3. Tell the students they are going to create a new unit of measurement. Discuss the many names of units we are familiar with such as inch, foot, meter, etc. Many of my students like to name the new units of measurement.

4. Pass out a strip of paper to each student, and keep one for demonstration.

5. Demonstrate how to fold the strip of paper in half across the short side. Instruct the students to do the same. Unfold the strip, draw a line almost all of the way down the fold, and mark 1/2 at the end of the line. Instruct the students to do the same.

6. Fold the strip back in half and then in half again. Draw lines on the new folds almost as long as the first one. Show the students and ask them how we should mark these lines. Mark the first one 1/4 and the second new fold 3/4. Instruct the students to do the same.

7. Continue to refold, fold, and mark making each line a little shorter until the strip of paper is divided in to 16 pieces and marked accordingly.

8. Assist students until everyone has a -new- ruler.

9. Have the students measure the three items with their new rulers and record the results on their notebook paper.

10. With the students, compare the lines on the new rulers with the lines on the standard ruler.

11. Have the students remeasure each item with the standard ruler and record the results on their notebook paper.

12. Tell the students to write about what they learned about measurement, and then collect the papers.

13. I have my students keep the new ruler in the pocket of their folder so when they are doing other measurement activities they can use it if they don't remember how to read a standard ruler.


1. Students are informally assessed by teacher observation during the lesson. The teacher will look for students' prior knowledge of using a ruler for accuracy to the nearest 16th of an inch and then for students' ability to measure to the nearest 16th of an inch after using the new ruler.
2. Students are also informally assessed by the teacher during the lesson on participation and following directions.
3. Papers are collected and graded. The final measure of each object should be within 1/16th of an inch. I subtract 5 points for every 1/16th of an inch off the student is past one 16th inch (up to 25 points per item). I count the student's response to what was learned as the other 25 points on this assignment.
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