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Handy Map

Carol Midgett
Location: unknown

This lesson engages students in creating a map of their hands. It provides purpose for using directional or positional words with mapping. The teacher draws a map of his or her hands and begins mapping them using words the students suggest. This allows the teacher to assess positional concepts students currently know and to build on that knowledge. Students create a simple map.

Now that students have experienced measuring and navigating with pictorial objects and an applet, this lesson establishes the connection between maps and how these tools help us find our way.

Some ideas that may be important to share:

  • Maps are pictures that show information.
  • We can use maps to get from one place to another, to find a treasure, to know what parts of the earth are covered with water and which are covered by land, and the location of rooms in our home or school.

Place your hand on a piece of large paper taped to the board and trace around it. Solicit information from the students about how to draw a map of your hand. Students might suggest that you name and label the fingers (thumb, pinky, ring finger, tall man, and index). Encourage them to talk about which hand it is (left or right) and to locate the wrist.

Next, trace the opposite hand on another piece of paper and map it using vocabulary from the students. This helps students understand how the vocabulary is used in a practical way. Discuss the similarities and differences between the hands.

Have students work in pairs to trace a set of each other’s hands on one sheet of 12" × 18" construction paper. Folding the paper in half helps students have enough space to complete the task. Have the students label their “Handy Map” with their name and label the parts of each hand.

Allow students to take turns guiding their partner on a tour of their hand map using appropriate vocabulary: Up, down, right, left, above, below, beneath, “small” turn, “large” turn, and backward. If appropriate, students may write a story about their “Handy Map.” The stories and maps may be displayed on a bulletin board or serve as a cover for a portfolio of measuring and mapping activities from this unit. These student products are appropriate for inclusion in portfolios documenting students’ growth and achievement. Having students share their products and conduct “guided tours” develops confidence with the mathematical concepts of this lesson.


  1. You may choose to use the Class Notes recording sheet to document student progress in this unit.
  2. A recording sheet, Use of Directional/Positional Words, has been provided to document students’ understanding of directional and positional words.
  3. After collecting data about your students' understanding of directional or positional words, you will be able to answer the following questions:
    • What adustments do I need to make in my sequence of lessons or content within the lessons?
    • What will I suggest as ways parents might assist their child in using the mathematical ideas of this lesson?

Questions for Students 

  1. How would you describe the uses of a map for your parents or sibling? 
  2. If you were asked to tell why maps are important, what would you say? 
  3. What are the different places you can go on your hand(s)? Describe how to get there. 
  4. What other words could you use in describing locations on your hands and how to move from one point to another? 
  5. What new words did you learn in this lesson? What do they mean? How did they help you guide someone around your hand? When would you use those words again? 

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students need remediation experiences? What should be the content of those and who will lead them?
  • Which students are ready for additional challenges? What should they look like? Who will conduct them?
  • What other directional/positional words are named in my state standards? How will you teach those concepts?

Measuring with Teacher’s Feet

In this lesson, students use nonstandard units to measure the distance between objects found in their classroom. They create a nonstandard unit by using an outline of the teacher’s foot and cutting around it to use as a “measurer.” Students generate a list of four or five objects in the classroom from which they will measure the distance to their workspace.

Measuring with Our Foot

Students measure the same distances as in the previous lesson using an outline cutout of their own foot. This enables students to practice using nonstandard units and to compare the measurement totals using their feet and the teacher’s foot.

Learning to Measure with Ladybug

The mathematical foci of this lesson are geometric concepts, location, navigation, direction, and spatial relationships and measurement concepts, using nonstandard units to measure a distance, and the iteration of units, measurement by using the same unit of measure repeatedly to determine the total. Students practice measuring with multiple units and a single unit following the methods modeled by the teacher and those appropriate for their level of understanding.

Facing Up

In this lesson, students create a map of their face and practice locating different parts using the geometric and measurement concepts they have learned in previous lessons, including location, navigation, spatial relationships, and measurement with nonstandard units. Students reproduce their face and describe it to reinforce their knowledge and skills of measuring and mapping. Using these familiar territories connects mathematics with daily encounters.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Describe, name, and interpret relative positions in space and apply ideas about relative position
  • Describe, name and interpret direction and distance in navigating space and apply ideas about direction and distance
  • Find and name locations with simple relationships such as “near to” and in coordinate systems such as maps
  • Demonstrate a beginning understanding of the function of a map by defining it and describing how to navigate it by taking someone on a “trip” around their hand using appropriate vocabulary

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Geometry

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.A.1
    Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.