Recently the grade two teachers, Stephanie and Neha, wanted to introduce their children to linear measurement in math. For many children, this can be a very abstract concept so the teachers began at the most fundamental level -- by having the students construct their own rulers, which they would then use to measure a variety of things during the year. Rather than simply being handed a premade ruler, the students now understand what every mark means and how it was determined.
The children used 1 inch color tiles to help them measure and mark inches on pieces of paper, which they then transferred to a 12 inch-long, four-sided, wooden rod. They marked the inches on all four sides of their rods. Next, the students had to figure out how to make haf inch marks accurately. Some knew that two halves made a whole, so they folded their zero line to the one-line (thereby folding one-inch in half) and marked the middle. Everyone learned how to find the half inches and measured and marked them on three sides of their rods. Once the children understood the process, some students found and measured quarter inches and some even found and measured eighth and sixteenth inches.
The students then used their rulers to measure the fabric to make their own art or crayon pouches. They received a piece of 17” x 39 ¾ ” cotton fabric and a piece of chalk. Their task was to measure and mark various lengths on the fabric: ½”, 4”, 9 ¾”, 12 ¾” 16”, 16 ¾”, and 27 ¾” . After all the measuring and marking the middle, left and right sides, the children began to fold and pin their fabrics. The ½” was the seam allowance needed to sew on the backing. They folded the 4” marks to the 9 ¾”. Then the 12 ¾” to the 16”. Finally, the 16 ¾” to the 27 ¾”. Each fold was pinned with several straight pins. They marked a ½” seam allowance, then every 2”, all the way across the fabric. If done correctly, the pouches would have a 1/2” seam allowance on the other side. Once the pouches were pinned and marked, the children had a chance to sew the pockets themselves (with a little help from our parent volunteers).
In this project, the students accomplished several things to learn about linear measurement and the importance of accuracy. They gained a deep understanding of the ruler and how it works. They made their own rulers, which they will use throughout the year, giving them pleasure each time they use them, and a level of skill that they wouldn't otherwise have had. The students also immediately used the rulers to help make crayon pouches, a complex and challenging task that resulted in objects they will treasure and use this year and in the future.