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Young students estimate and measure their handspan here using non-standard units





Title – Measuring Handspan with Non-standard Units
By – Joana Carvajal
Primary Subject – Math
Grade Level – 1

Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills Standards:

    111.13b Mathematics:

      (1.6A) Geometry and spatial reasoning.

      • Sort objects by attributes.
      • Identify shapes and solids.

      (1.7A-B) Measurement.

      • Estimate and measure using nonstandard units.
      • Relate the unit to size of object.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain why you need less of something big to cover the area.
  • Estimate how long they think something is.
  • Measure the size of their hand using large cubes, small cubes and dominoes.


  • Large cubes a big set (10 per student)
  • Small cubes a big set (20 per student)
  • 3-4 sets of Dominoes (5 per student)
  • Paper and pencils
  • Ziploc bags (3 per student)

Pre-Activity Preparation:

  • Each student will have three Ziploc bags.
    • In the first bag, there should be about 20 small cubes.
    • In the second Ziploc bag, there should be about 10 large cubes.
    • And in the last bag, there should about 5 dominoes.


  • The children should sit down on the floor to work a couple of examples as a class.
  • The teacher gives out instructions and shows an example on how it should be done.

Establishing Set/Motivation:

  • Discuss the following question with the class before working on this lesson.
    How long do you think your hand is from the pinky to the thumb?
  • They can each think how many small cubes, large cubes, and dominoes their hand will take.

Learning Experiences/Presentation/Procedure:

  1. Children will trace their hands on a piece of paper.
  2. Teacher will ask children to measure the length of their hand from the pinky to the thumb, first using small cubes. Then they will record this on their paper, it will look like this:
        ________ Small cubes

        ________ Large cubes

      ________ Dominoes
  3. They will continue measuring using the three different materials and they will record all of this until finished.
  4. Repeat steps individually if a student is having trouble.
  5. Pick on some children to share the measurements of their hands using the three materials.
  6. Let students talk quietly to their neighbors about their measurements, so they can see the differences and similarities.
  7. Discuss as a class what everyone had in similarity in their recordings, which should be that everyone used fewer dominoes, and everyone used more of the small cubes, but let the students draw this conclusion.
  8. Discuss the differences that the students had.
  9. Discuss why we needed more of certain materials than others.


  1. What material did we use more of: small cubes, large cubes or dominoes?
  2. What material did we use less of?
  3. Why were fewer dominoes needed?
  4. If my hand were smaller, would I need more or less small cubes?
  5. If my hand were bigger, would I need more or less large cubes?

E-Mail Joana Carvajal !

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