Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about cups, pints, quarts and gallons. It is designed to complement the Cups, Pints, Quarts, Gallons topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Review with your children that capacity describes how much a container can hold. Some children may be familiar with volume, or the amount of space something takes up, which is usually measured in cubic units. Your children should also be familiar with standard units of capacity, including cups, pints, quarts, and gallons. We recommend doing plenty of hands-on activities together, such as cooking, baking, or just measuring a variety of classroom materials to help your children understand how the units are related.

Show your children a glass and a pitcher. Which has the greater capacity? Which can hold more? Guide them to understand that the bigger container holds more and therefore has a greater capacity. Then show two different shaped glasses and ask the question again. You may want to pour water, uncooked rice, beans, small cubes, or other classroom materials from one glass into the other to demonstrate how one has a greater, smaller, or equal capacity to the other. Remind your children that just because two glasses are different sizes, it does not necessarily mean they have different capacities. Tall and skinny glasses may hold the same amount of water as short and wide glasses. Have your children experiment with different containers and compare shapes and capacities using a variety of pourable materials. Ask them to estimate and predict which container has the greater capacity before they begin their experiments.

Show a measuring cup and explain that a cup is a unit of measurement. Show a mug or a plastic cup and remind your children that while they are both cups, they are not the standard size used in measurement. Ask your students to discuss why they think we use a universal measurement called a “cup”. Some cups may hold more than a cup! Fill a measuring cup and model how to write the measurement 1 c. Remind your children that we use the abbreviation “c” to stand for cups. Challenge your students to think of items that come in cup-sized containers such as single servings of yogurt or small school milk cartons.

Show a pint measure and explain that a pint is a unit of measurement that is larger than a cup. Ask a student to pour 2 cups into the pint measure to demonstrate that 2 cups are equal to 1 pint. Explain that we use the abbreviation “pt” to stand for pints. Brainstorm different items that come in pint sizes, such as ice cream, milk, and blueberries.

Show a quart measure and explain that a quart is a unit of measurement that is larger than both a pint and a cup. Have students pour 2 pints into the quart measure to demonstrate that 2 pints are equal to 1 quart. Help your students recognize that since there are 2 cups in a pint, there are 4 cups in a quart. They can pour 4 full measuring cups into a quart measure to demonstrate. Remind children that we use the abbreviation “qt” to stand for quarts. Brainstorm different items that come in quart sizes, such as juice, milk, strawberries (large package), and paint.

A gallon is a unit of measurement that is larger than a quart, pint, and cup. You may want to present to your children with an empty gallon carton of milk or a gallon soup pot. With some assistance they can pour 4 quarts into the gallon container to understand that 4 quarts are equal to 1 gallon. Since there are 2 pints in a quart, there are 8 pints in a gallon. Since there are 2 cups to a pint, there are 16 cups in a gallon. You can demonstrate how the units are related by measuring different materials and pouring them into the carton or pot. We use abbreviation “gal” to stand for gallons. Brainstorm different items that come in gallons, such as juice, milk, and gasoline.

Working with cups, pints, quarts, and gallons can be confusing for some children and we suggest using plenty of hand-on activities to help them understand how the units are related. It is helpful to create a class chart of equivalent amounts, including pictures of the different measurements, to help students visualize and retain the relationships between units. Graphic organizers, mnemonics, and silly songs may also help drive the concepts home.