Presidential Heights: Convert Customary Measurement

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SWBAT convert inches into feet to problem solve.

Big Idea

Solve multi-step, real world problems by using feet to compare the heights of the Presidents.


10 minutes

I open with a quick review on how to read whole inches, and then fractions of an inch. I use a bright, specific visual because it helps students to be precise. 

During the warm up, students work with their table partner to measure their partner's height using a measuring tape. I fixed a measuring tape to the wall, and students put their back on the wall; they each wrote down their height (in inches) on a post-it note.

The activity might be done more rapidly by giving each group a tape measure, but that's a decision to make based upon classroom behaviors. By making the tape measure fixed, I've removed most of the temptation to touch. By having one group measure at a time, the group dynamic that can build when there's a "flock" of students is minimized. There are a number of ways you can do this activity such as multiple fixed tape measures (yardsticks, meter sticks); fixing the measure to the floor may make this activity more accessible for students with physical challenges.

Each group works together, and then returns to their seats. Then another group comes up, and completes the task. The students enjoy determining their personal data. They will use this data to complete the G.P. and I.P. of this lesson.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Students now contribute to a discussion while we create an Anchor Chart together. I use the anchor chart to model my height with Abe Lincoln's height. We then use another anchor chart to look at how to convert inches into feet. These sheets are from TeachersPayTeachers, made by Teacher Chick, who has granted me permission to post her work here. (This is what I use to guide the anchor charts.)

Using these anchor charts as guides, students convert their height (in inches) to feet and inches. I expect that students may have difficulty with converting inches into feet despite this being a remedial objective simply due to the fact that we haven't worked very much on conversions yet. I anticipate that I may need to provide more support here with each student to ensure that each conversion is correctly solved. Students then use what they know to draw him/herself standing next to Abe Lincoln.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Now that students have practiced converting inches into feet, I challenge students to convert each listed President's height from inches to feet and inches. Afterward, students rank the Presidents in relation to height from tallest to shortest.

Students are next challenged to calculate how much taller Lincoln is than Madison. Next, students draw models of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson to compare their heights. My expectation is that students will complete this with enthusiasm, and be successful.


10 minutes

To conclude this lesson, we review customary length by watching a Study Jam clip. Rhinozilla (a lizard) needs to be measured in feet, inches, and fractions of an inch so that a new I.D. tag can be made for him. The task is broken down so that conversations about material presented, and questions asked, can occur without you having to pause the program. Students can use whiteboards, or their fingers (first, second, third choice), to indicate their responses to questions. One of the great aspects of this interactive activity is that it never "just gives the answer". The thinking is always explained. It's a great model of my expectations for student responses. 

This Scholastic website offers animated, highly-interactive tutorials that students can return to and review.