Okay, now to explain my desperate plea. The other day I bought chains to hang my hanging plants from hooks in my porch. I found white plastic chains that were 61 cents per foot. I needed six chains and each chain needed to be 18 inches. Simple, right? Wrong! The young man that came to help me looked at me blankly when I said 18 inches. He looked at the measurement tape on the floor and said, “Hmmm, it doesn’t have 18 inches here.” I finally had to tell him that it was a foot and a half and showed him where it was on the tape. There was 17 links in the first chain and I suggested that we could count the links for the other chains so they could be the same size. He insisted that it was easier for him to measure it so away he went “measuring.” The next chain was 15 links and I told him that it wouldn’t work. So, then he decided that he better count the links. Okay, now we finally have six chains that were 17 links each. He could not figure out how to determine the price for the total. I had to tell him that the 6 chains equaled 9 feet in length and all he had to do was multiply 9 feet by 61 cents. He was very impressed with my skills! (Skills? I thought it was basic math!)
I really believe that you can incorporate math word problems in any subject area that you teach. Use them as bonuses on quizzes or tests. Use them as bell ringers when they arrive in your class. It involves reading so that should cover English and Language Arts. The math aspect is obvious. For Social Studies, use measurement with geography; figure out the heights of famous people in inches, figure out the cost of something bought during a certain time period, etc. For Science, use measurements with lab work. Measure a text book or some kind of object every day!
I worry about our students when they can’t figure out how to give change or to use simple measurements in life. They don’t realize these are important skills and I’m not sure that teachers are instilling this in their minds. All we seem to do is recognize it as a standard that we have to teach and then we teach the unit as if it is a stand-alone object. Once taught, we move on to something else and never look back. We need to show our students that basic skills are important and necessary in our everyday lives in order to be successful.
Here are some interesting sites I found to teach measurement:
Teachnology: Measurement Themes
Original image: 'Tape Measure' http://www.flickr.com/photos/36045027@N00/2327889692 by: Darren Hester