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The Area of Things ...

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Students have opportunities to recognize and use the attributes of length and area using non-standard units.

Gather students so they may see the book and hear you read aloud the story It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw. This story uses the natural movement of what seems to be a cloud to create many different shapes (i.e. a squirrel, a tree, and a bird). After reading the story, explain that students will make their own pictures using a piece of yarn and cotton balls.

Introduce the concept of measuring area using nonstandard units by showing students how to create regions, predicting how many cotton balls are required to fill the region, filling the regions with cotton balls, and counting the number of cotton balls required to fill the region. Glue the cotton balls into place and label the picture with the total number of cotton balls used. This numerical label gives students a mental picture of area and helps them understand the concept of measuring area.

Give each student a 12-inch piece of yarn and a ruler for “checking” the length of yarn.

704 ruler

After each child has checked the length, give each student one sheet of blue construction paper. Model how the two ends of the yarn must touch to create a picture. Depending on other concepts that need to be reinforced, you may suggest to some students that they create simple geometric shapes for their pictures. For very young students, you might want to tie the ends of the yarn together to make this step easier. However, be sure that the yarn is no longer than 12 inches for this age group too, so that they will be able to count the number of cotton balls needed to cover the region.

704 yarn page

Ask students to draw a region on the blue construction paper. Assist students in gluing their yarn along the outline they created (making a “trail” with glue and then placing the yarn on top often makes this task easier for younger students). Have students first predict and record how many cotton balls it will take to cover the inside of their shape, then place the cotton balls inside their figure so that the entire area is covered. Students need to glue, count, and record once their cotton balls are in place. When this activity is completed, students will have made a picture made of yarn as well as recorded estimates of and counted the number of cotton balls used.

Create a bulletin board using various regions filled with cotton balls. Label each with the number of cotton balls required to fill the area. Students could create additional examples of area while working in the math center.

  • Blue construction paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Cotton balls
  • Chart paper
  • Book: It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw
  • Yarn (one 12” piece for each child)
  • Pencils
  • 12-inch rulers

Assessment Options

  1. At this stage of the unit, it is important to know whether students can accurately measure area using nonstandard units. Checking students’ pictures and their calculations of area using cotton balls will provide assessment of the students’ understanding or lack of understanding of this concept and their ability to apply the concept.
  2. Using the Class Notes Recording Sheet, you might collect data and document information about the following:
    • How accurately did students define area?
    • How accurately did students predict the number of cotton balls required to fill their region?
    • Can students transfer this knowledge to other area-related problems?
    • Can students calculate area using other nonstandard units?
  3. For the class bulletin board, students could add descriptive writings or stories about the shapes they created.
Move on to the next lesson, Drop by Drop

Questions for Students 

  1. What is the area of a figure?
  2. How can we figure out the area using these cotton balls?
  3. Could we use beans to figure out the area of our shapes?
  4. Would using beans and cotton balls give us the same answer? Why?
  5. What other objects could we use to figure the area of these regions? (This helps students recognize the relationship between measuring tools and the object to be measured.)
  6. If you had to teach this lesson to another student or your parents, what would you tell them and what directions would you give them?

Teacher Reflection 

  • Is there another piece of literature that would be useful for teaching area?
  • Which students demonstrated an understanding of area in the pictures they created? Which students need more practice with area?
  • What would I do differently the next time I teach this lesson? Why?
  • Would it be more beneficial to complete a class picture calculating
    area prior to providing individual practice?

The Length of My Feet

This lesson focuses students’ attention on the attributes of length and develops their knowledge of and skill in using nonstandard units of measurement. It provides practice with and remediation of the measurable attributes of length.

Grouchy Lessons of Time

This lesson provides an introduction to and practice with the concept of time. The activities focus students’ attention on the attributes of time and enables students at varying levels to develop knowledge and skills in using time.

Drop by Drop

In this lesson, students recognize and use the attributes of volume. They engage in activities that promote understanding of how to measure volume using standard units.

The Weight of Things

This lesson introduces and provides practice with the measurable attributes of weight. It also gives an opportunity to assess student knowledge of and skill in using measurement of mass. This learning experience focuses students’ attention on the attributes of weight using hands-on activities and active learning.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Recognize the attributes of length and volume.
  • Measure area using nonstandard units.
  • Measure with multiple copies of units of the same size, such as clips laid end to end.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area, and time.
  • Understand how to measure using nonstandard and standard units.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1
    Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

Grade 1, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.A.2
    Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end; understand that the length measurement of an object is the number of same-size length units that span it with no gaps or overlaps. Limit to contexts where the object being measured is spanned by a whole number of length units with no gaps or overlaps.

Grade 2, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.A.1
    Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

Grade 2, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.9
    Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit, or by making repeated measurements of the same object. Show the measurements by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number units.