This page provides information to support educators and families when teaching K-3 students about nonstandard measurement. It is designed to complement the Nonstandard Measurement topic on BrainPOP Jr.  

Ask students to think about why they might measure something, such as a plant, a rock, or how much they have grown. Explain to children that when we practice science, we ask questions about the world. We use tools to help gather information, or data, that will help us answer these questions–and maybe even bring up more questions!  

Now ask students how we measure how long, tall, or wide things are. They will likely say a ruler. You can also remind them of other tools, such as a tape measure, yardstick, and meter stick. Explain that these tools measure in standard units–centimeters, inches, feet, and meters. Point out that standard units allow us to measure different things in the same way.

Ask how we can measure when we don’t have any tools. Give them some time to brainstorm, then describe how we can use items like crayons, pencils, paperclips, and other nonstandard units to measure objects around us. It is important to understand that, just as with a ruler or tape measure, nonstandard units are tools for gathering data about length, height, or width.

Model the proper way to measure an object using a nonstandard unit. Emphasize the importance of using the same object when measuring. What would happen if you used different sized pencils to measure a table? Then model how to align the objects properly. The objects should be placed end to end without any gaps. What might happen if the objects were not evenly placed? How would your measurement change?  

Discuss the importance of selecting the appropriate unit to measure for the size of the object you’re measuring. We measure small objects, such as a book or tablet, with small units, such as inches (standard unit) or counting cubes (nonstandard unit). For larger objects, such as a room or a garden, we use larger units, such as feet (standard unit) or our footsteps. Ask students to consider why this is so. What would happen if we tried to measure the height of a tall building using crayons or if we tried to measure the length of a ladybug using a notebook?  

For enrichment or extension, we recommend exploring other BrainPOP Jr. movies about measurement including Centimeters, Meters, Kilometers and Inches and Feet.