Making a Robot: Measurement Project

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SWBAT measure using nonstandard units. SWBAT compare units used in measurement and describe how that changes the total number of units.

Big Idea

Do your kids love doing the robot dance move?! Get them excited about measurement with dancing and a culminating project that is sure to enhance their understanding of nonstandard measurement.

Hook & Objective

10 minutes

CCSS Context:

Measurement in first grade is completely nonstandard. The ruler is now only introduced in second grade. This insures that kids have a real understanding of the principals of measurement-all of the units must be the same length, no gaps between the units, where we start and stop measuring-before they get to the abstract concept of the inch in 2nd grade. In this lesson, students look at how the length of the unit matters by comparing lengths in inch tiles and in paperclips. This is an introduction to the 2nd grade standard (2MDA2). 


Hook kids into the lesson with an exciting dance from the Learning Station. It's called Dancing Robots and is sure to get all of those wiggles out!

Review past learning:

We have been working on measuring length with nonstandard units. Today we are going to measure robot parts with 2 units. First with inch tiles and then with paperclips. We will see if the number is the same or not.

Connect to the real world:

Measurement is important because when engineers and designers make plans they have to give exact measurements for how long each part should be. Today we will make sure that we give exact measurements for each part of our robot.


Your thinking job is: When I measure with 2 different units, does the number stay the same? Why or why not?

Opening Discussion

5 minutes

Present tools: The CCSS emphasizes that students should use appropriate tools strategically (MP5). In this lesson, students are using two different units, and they are having to observe the similarities and differences in the tool. This will help them understand why the measurements are different later in this lesson.

I'll show a paperclip and an inch tile.

Guiding Questions:

  • How are these units the same?
  • How are these units different? Make sure a student shares that the length of the unit is different.

I'll give each partner pair a paperclip and an inch tile to observe more carefully and compare them.

Student Share

20 minutes

Real World Context: Designers and scientists use robots in the real world to help make processes that people do easier. We are going to design our own robot today and make sure we record exact measurements for each part of the robot.

I'll present the robot arm (printed on cardstock so it is sturdy; you can find the Robot Body Parts in the Independent Practice section):

  • Partner talk: When we measure this robot arm, will we use more paperclips or more inch tiles? 
  • I'll quickly have kids vote on whether it will be more paperclips or more inch tiles. This allows us to revisit it later and determine who is right.


Student Work Time:

I'll give each student a copy of the robot arm to measure at their desks. They will measure it first with the inch tiles, and then with the paper clips. They will record their measurements on the attached My Measurement Robot recording sheet. See some students measuring here: Testing our Theory about the Units

Student Debrief: 

I'll quickly have 2 students measure in front of the class, one with paperclips and one with inch tiles.

  • Were the numbers the same? 
  • Why weren't the number of paperclips and number of inch tiles the same?
  • Which number was more? Why do you think it was more?
  • If we measure the robot leg, will it take more paperclips or inch tiles?

These questions focus on MP8, Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Students look for the pattern here-we need more of the smaller unit, less of the larger unit. So when we measure other robot parts, we will experience the same logic. 


Independent Practice: Robot Building

20 minutes

Directions: Students measure each part of the robot in paperclips and inch tiles. The Robot Pieces are attached! Students record their measurements on My Measurement Robot recording sheet.

Watch some focused Robot Measuring and see how students are thinking about the 2 different units!

After students make the robot, they measure the full length of the robot. This will probably be tricky! I will bring students back together before we measure the whole robot and talk about where the start and end would be for the robot.

When students finish the measurements, they name their robot and decorate with color, glitter, antennae, etc! See the completed robots here:  Proud Robot Engineers!.JPG (Warning: Cuteness ensues.)


20 minutes

This assessment is a midpoint quiz for the unit! It covers all of the MD standards covered so far (clocks and nonstandard measurement), while also spiraling 1OAD8, the missing part equations. I always have number sentences on my quizzes, even if it wasn't the main focus of the unit so far, to make sure I am consistently spiraling these throughout the year.