Friday, January 20, 2012

Two Ways to Approach Measurement Conversions

Yesterday Kindergarten, today 5th grade.  THIS is what I love about my job!  Actually, I spent many years teaching 5th grade math, so it was like a homecoming.  Many thanks to a dear friend who invited me into her room.  She's subbing in the room for the next 3 weeks or so, and she's doing a fabulous job!

Measurement conversions.  Answer honestly, do those words scare you just a little?  That's what our 5th graders are working on right now.  I've got two tried and true appraches to teaching measurement conversions, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to those who know me that one of them involves drawing models (should I call this post CRA, Part 3?).  My four-step process is shown below.

Consider this story:  Sue needs two gallons of lemonade.  The lemonade she wants to buy only comes in quart containers.  How many quart containers will she need to buy?
Here's the first weird thing I noticed that kids do when they try to solve a measurement conversion word problem.  Often, they don't even use the units from the story!  The story above is asking about gallons and quarts, but I've seen kids look on their conversion charts for the conversion between quarts and pints.  Huh? I'm still not sure I understand the reasoning behind that, but that's where the first step in my process came from.  Step 1 is to write down what they're trying to find from the story.  Next, they find a conversion for those units from the conversion chart (our kiddos are provided a chart to use on the state test, and we use it all year long for practice).  Step 3, they draw the conversion from the chart.  And finally, they draw the numbers from the story.  Try this out yourself!  It also works great for more complicated conversions.  Can you see, for example, how the drawing above could be used to find the quarts in 1 1/2 gallons?

While I love drawing models to find conversions, I realized a couple years ago that function tables are another magical tool for conversions.  And the more tools we put in our kiddos' tool boxes, the better, right.  It's Friday, and I have a date with my son for dinner, so instead of a lengthy explanation of how to use function tables for conversions, I'm going to provide you with a Friday Freebie!  Click on the picture to download the activity.  If you're interested in more activities for conversions, check out the complete Measurement Conversions Unit in my TPT store.  Happy Friday!!


  1. Thank you! This is great stuff and very helpful!

  2. Thank you! Your work and ideas are so helpful!

  3. I just used this and it finally clicked for the child!! Actually understanding what they are doing instead of just memorizing a math rule. Genius idea! Thank you!!!


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