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Measure for Measure

This article, written for students, looks at how some measuring units and devices were developed.

Sizing Them Up

Can you put these shapes in order of size? Start with the smallest.

Cutting it Out

I cut this square into two different shapes. What can you say about the relationship between them?

Hand Span

Age 5 to 7
Challenge Level

Hand Span



Spread your fingers as wide as you can,

What you have now is called a hand span .

A hand span can help you to find out how big

Is the height of a cow, a horse or a pig.

Use your hand span very carefully and see

How many it takes to go right round a tree.

Now get a good friend and make this a game,

Compare if the number of spans round the tree is the same.

Next find an adult and compare their hand span too

To see if they use more or less spans than you.

Now write down the answers and think as hard as can be,

Why is it better to use a tape measure like me?

Tape measure.

Why do this problem?

This is an engaging activity for the teacher to read out to young children as a start to exploring measurement and the need for standardised units.

Possible approach

Read the poem and after a bit of discussion  encourage pupils to get involved in practical explorations.

Key questions

How many hands spans have you used?