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Inservice: Non-Standard or Standard?

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Non-standard measurement is a regular part of many preschool classrooms. This 2-3 hour session focuses on engaging participants with non-standard and standard measurement: what the different kinds of measurement mean, why engage preschoolers with both, and how a teacher might engage children productively with them.

Professional Development: 2-3 Hour Session

First consider what constitutes measurement for preschoolers.

Either before or during the session have participants read The Mathematics of Measurement  The intent is to provide an overview of what is involved in measuring for young children. Ask participants to find two other participants to discuss the reading:

  • Share two big ideas you are taking away from the reading.
  • Why do you think these ideas are critical for young children?
  • How are your big ideas related to other big ideas shared in your small group?


Follow up by measuring an object.

Ask participants to measure an object (a book, a table top, the length of a book case) using a non-standard measuring instrument (a cube, a bear counter, a hand) and discuss what they noticed. Refer to Formative Assessment: Measurement for ideas and details.  Then ask them to measure the same object with a standard measure (ruler, tape measure) and discuss what they notice about each and the difference between them. 


Engage with assessment tasks.

Refer to the following sections of the Measurement Assessment Protocol: Measuring using Non-Standard Units and Measuring using Inches and Centimeters. Engage with the tasks. You could have the participants role play with one being the teacher and the other the student. The goal while practicing assessing is to be considering the affordances and limitations of each form of measurement. Discuss.


Discuss young children engaging in non-standard measurement.

Pose and discuss the following questions:

  • Would you have preschoolers use non-standard measurement instruments?  Why or why not?
  • Would you have preschoolers use standard measure? Why or why not? 
  • Would it be a good idea to use non-standard measure without getting to standard measurement instruments?  Why or why not? 

Note that the intention is not to have every participant agree, but to get at the underlying ideas of measurement and how non-standard and standard measure can help develop those ideas. (See The Mathematics of Measurement for support).


Provide a follow-up reading (optional).     

Have participants read "A sequence of early childhood learning experiences designed to teach concepts of measurement" by Julie Diamond (article may be downloaded here). This provides examples of how to engage young children with non-standard and standard measure and support the transition from one to another.

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