Reflection: Lesson Planning Measurement: Distance - Section 2: Explore

Oftentimes, effective science instruction necessitates that we, the science teacher, become the literacy or math teacher in order to progress through our science standards. Measurement is one of these areas of mathematical literacy that students may come through the door with advanced or little skill or understanding. For years, I spent crazy amounts of time trying, unsuccessfully, to teach students how to use rulers, thermometers and triple beam balances. After a few years of valiant effort, I realized that I might be making assumptions about what my students knew. To analyze why students could not read a ruler or thermometer or triple beam balance, I had to go to the math standards. From my review of the standards and discussions with math teachers, I realized that certain fundamental concepts were not in the math curriculum until after I needed students to know them! These concepts are assumed because they seem easy to people who know them, but if students have not learned it, measurement instruction will not be successful. Some of the concepts that science teachers should be mindful of when teaching measurement include:

1) Number lines: many students have not had instruction around the idea of positive versus negative numbers.

2) Scale: the lines on measurement tools are not random. Each line has meaning and corresponds to a unit. Not all lines are labeled, so students need to know what they mean.

3) Decimals and fractions: measurement tools require an understanding of "whole" and "parts".

In order to save time and aggravation later, it makes sense to spend some upfront time on direct instruction. By "taking a tour" of the measurement tool with explicit instruction about what the lines and symbols mean and by modeling correct use, students have a better chance at understanding what they are measuring rather than just waving a ruler around.

Teaching Mathematical Literacy in Science
Lesson Planning: Teaching Mathematical Literacy in Science

Measurement: Distance

Unit 4: Measuring Matter
Lesson 1 of 7

Big Idea: Students practice precise and accurate measurement of distance.

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Standards:
Subject(s):
Science, distance (Motion), metric system (Science Skills), ruler, meter sticks, Fluency (Math), distance, mass, matter, Forces
80 minutes

Erin Greenwood

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