3.MD 4: Tell Stories About Measurement First! (#206)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 206

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”

And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times. Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. CCSS math standards are listed here in blue, followed by ambient math suggestions.

Measurement and Data 3.MD
Represent and interpret data.
4. Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch.  Show the data by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in appropriate units, whole numbers, halves, or quarters.

Before teaching the nuts and bolts of measurement, create a fascination for it.  Where did the units of measurement come from?  How did they get their names?  What endearingly funny anecdotes can be related about our collective relationship to measurement?  Here are some examples from the Math By Hand Grade 3 binder:

Colorful historical facts and anecdotes in story form, along with practical applications and experiences are fun and effective teaching tools.  It’s surprising how relatively recently we’ve adopted our weights and measures standards.  When we lived more simply, before commerce and trade, there was little to no need to measure or weigh anything accurately.  Many peoples or tribes used individual systems of measurement in their local communities.

The first known unit of universal measurement was the Egyptian cubit.  Its length was based on the length of the arm and hand, from the elbow to the extended fingertips.  Everyone’s arm measures differently, so in ancient Egypt the Standard Royal Cubit (used to check the accuracy of all measuring rods) was made of black granite and preserved at the Royal Court.

The human body was also used as the basis for smaller measurements.  Digits (fingers or sections of fingers), the palm, and the whole hand were used as smaller increments of the cubit.  Later on, the king’s foot was used as the first standard for our modern “foot.”

And here are a couple of examples of the origins of units of measurement’s names:

Yard
from the German gierd (pronounced gyard) meaning girth, to encircle. One theory is that the yard originated as the waist measurement of the king (36 inches).  Another is that King Henry I of England decreed that a yard should be equal to the distance between his nose and extended thumb!

Mile
from the Latin mille meaning 1,000. The mile was first measured as 1,000 paces.

This sort of exploration and discovery can make for a much stronger start than diving right into the abstract bare bones of the subject.  As always, hands-on experience is invaluable.  The Math By Hand Grade 3 Kit 4 includes all the materials needed to make a 36″ tape measure, by hand of course!

The instructions guide the student to mark whole, half, and quarter inches on the tape measure.  Much enthusiasm and willingness to learn is generated by the experience of making one’s own tools, and the inclination to use the tools more prolifically engenders a more successful relationship with measuring in general.

As for making line plots of random objects that are measured, the make-work nature of this endeavor will tend to make it less valuable and interesting.  How much more vital would it be to first create a situation that requires this sort of measuring, so the project itself has integrity, before setting about to measure and record otherwise random objects?

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for more Grade 3 math CCSS and their ambient counterparts.