Introduction to Metric and U.S. Customary System

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Students will be able to explain the history of the two systems of measurement and where the systems are used.

Big Idea

Measure like an Egyptian!


15 minutes

Today students begin investigating the Metric and U.S. Customary systems of measurement.  I start by giving students a brief history on the two systems and highlighting where the systems are used throughout the world. 

To introduce the two systems I show a short video to the students.  This video from NASA Connects focuses on introducing the two systems and highlights the history of measurement.  One of the facts from the video is that in ancient Egypt people used the cubit for measuring distance. 



After showing the video to the students I ask them to some questions to check for understanding and setup the next part of our lesson. 

What are the two systems of measurement?  What can you tell me about each system?  How did ancient people measure length?

I then explain to students how they are going to measure the base of a pyramid using cubits just like ancient Egyptians.  Students will measure the length of two hallways using cubits.

Okay, I’m going to have you guys get into groups of four.  Each person in your group must help to determine the length of the “base” of your pyramid.  You must elect a Pharaoh for your group before beginning to measure. 

I bring the students in the hallway and have them begin measuring. 

I give students about 5-10 minutes to complete their investigation then bring them back into the classroom.  Students report out results and difficulties to the whole group.  By completing this short investigation in non-standard units I hope that students are able to see the value in creating a system of measurement that is more practical. 


30 minutes

Students begin using a graphic organizer today that will be used throughout the remainder of this unit.  This graphic organizer is a hierarchy chart that divides measurement into two systems and separates each into length, weight, capacity, and temperature.  I make sure to copy this graphic organizer on a brightly colored piece of paper so that it can be easily retrieved from their math folder and desk. 

I lead students through setting up the first three tiers of the graphic organizer.  I leave the last tier of the graphic organizer blank so that it can be filled in throughout the remaining lessons of the unit.


15 minutes

To wrap up today’s lesson I give students a pre-assessment on their measurement knowledge.  I have the students complete this short assessment individually.

The conclusions drawn from this assessment will offer a window into student understanding of units of measurement.  The data will used to modify future lessons in this unit based on current student understanding.