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The Length of My Feet

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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.

Begin by reading the story Ladybug on the Move by Richard Fowler and the use of nonstandard units for measuring the length of objects or space. Allow students to participate in retelling the story.

697 lb chart

Review the attributes of length and how to measure it. Discuss other things that can be used to measure length or distance and are readily available—this activity encourages students to consider using their feet as a nonstandard unit of measurement. Record the students’ list on a chart and post it for future reference. Encourage students to share ideas of nonstandard units for measuring. If a student names feet as a method of measuring, launch the new lesson. If no one mentions feet or steps, allow students to share their ideas and then ask, “What about our feet?”

Discuss how to measure the length of the classroom walls, rugs, and desks, or how to measure the distance from the door to the window or from the classroom to the bathroom by using students’ own two feet and counting the number of steps. Another way to measure with feet that works especially well for kindergarten students is to pair students, give them construction paper and crayons so that they can trace the other person’s foot, cut out the paper foot, and use it for measuring “steps.”

Demonstrate how to measure the length of a chalkboard or bulletin board by placing one foot in front of the other and counting each step. Have the students count with you as you measure and record the measurement beside the name of the object on the board or chart paper. For younger students, you may want to use a picture cue in addition to the word.

Divide the class into teams of two and give each team a couple of objects or spaces to measure, for example, distance between objects in the room. Remember that, to work independently, younger students usually need picture cues for the items to be measured. The students should record their ‘feet’ measurements and share the results with the entire class. It is appropriate for students in grades one and two to use tally marks or materials markers to record the number of units used. Record the measurements under your chalkboard or bulletin board measurement chart. Leaving these labels in place helps the students remember the measurement activity and purposes for measuring. You may also wish to distribute the Measuring Distances Activity Sheet to students so they may record their measurements as they work.

pdficonMeasuring Distances Activity Sheet 

Older students can compare the lengths of various classroom objects or spaces to determine attributes such as shorter and longer, shorter and taller, and wider or narrower. Younger students can use actual objects (such as broken pencils with new pencils, books of various lengths and widths) to compare lengths instead of using steps.

To conclude this lesson, give students the opportunity to use Hiding Ladybug Applet.

appicon Hiding Ladybug Applet 

This interactive math applet allows students to practice measurement skills by estimating and calculating how far a ladybug must travel to hide under a leaf. Be sure to direct student’s attention to the fact that the distance the ladybug moves is equivalent to the length of the arrow. Demonstrate how to select the arrows to generate forward or backward movements and the selection of angles to negotiate turns of different “sizes” (45 or 90 degrees). Show students how to clear one step or all steps and how to click on the arrow at the top right of the applet for the ladybug to move according to the plan.

Assessment Options

  1. At this point it is important to determine whether students understand the attributes of length and how to measure them using nonstandard units of measurement. You might collect data and document information about the following:
    • How accurately did students measure (nonstandard units for lower level and standard units for upper level)? What knowledge and skills enable them to be more successful in measurement activities?
    • Can students transfer their skills for measuring length to other objects and activities?
    • Can students measure the length of a variety of objects using a variety of materials
  2. The Questions for Students help students focus on the mathematical concepts being introduced and allow you to gather assessment data regarding knowledge and skill with these concepts.
  3. As students work in pairs measuring things, monitor their understanding of the concepts and record important information for future use. A recording sheet, Class Notes, is provided to document assessment.


  1. For further practice in measuring lengths, students can work independently or in small groups in the class math center. Offer a variety of items or a list of items within the classroom to be measured along with a variety of materials to be used as nonstandard units of measure (connecting cubes, yarn, paperclips, and so forth). Use the “Ladybug Units” and the “Ladybug Tape” provided at the end of this unit as measurement tools. For older students, provide standard units for measuring, such as rulers, measuring tapes, meter sticks, and yardsticks. Placing measuring objects in plastic bags or bins make it easy for you to manage activities during lessons and in the math center.
  2. Move on to the next lesson, The Area of Things.

Questions for Students 

1. What is length?

[The distance between two objects; how tall an object is; etc.]

2. What are some other materials or objects we could use to measure length?

[Student responses may vary.]

3. Which object was the longest?

[Answers will depend upon the measurements completed in class today.]

4. Which object was the shortest?

[Answers will depend upon the measurements completed in class today.]

5. Which object was tallest?

[Answers will depend upon the measurements completed in class today.]

6. Which object was the widest?

[Answers will depend upon the measurements completed in class today.]

7. Which object was most narrow?

[Answers will depend upon the measurements completed in class today.]

Teacher Reflection 

  1. What other activities or materials, if any, are appropriate for teaching length?
  2. Which activities produced the greatest learning benefits for students?
  3. Which students met all objectives of the lesson? Which students did not meet the objectives?
  4. What adjustments could be made in future lessons to teach this concept?
  5. How will I reteach length to those students who did not master it?
  6. What extension activities would be appropriate for continuing to teach length?
  7. What management strategies worked well? What adjustments would make the management of students and materials work better?

The Area of Things ...

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

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 length as a measurable attribute of objects.
  • Measure using nonstandard and standard units.

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.