Non-Standard Units of Measure

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to be a guest math teacher in one of our grade one classrooms. The grade one team was beginning to plan a unit on non-standard units of measure when I was sitting in on their planning meeting. I piped up that I know a non-standards unit of measure and I could teach a lesson about it.

Well one teacher took me up on the offer. So I taught a group of grade one students how to measure height in “hands”. The way that you measure a horse. This is something that comes almost naturally to me with my love and experience with horses!


I started out by showing them a picture of a friend and her horse. I talked to the students about what position a horse needed to be in to measure them, and that we measure to the withers. I then informed them that we don’t measure to the head and asked them why they thought that might be. They had many great answers, which were all a bit correct. They realized that the head moves too much to measure.img_7804

Then I showed them how we hold our hands to measure and that I happened to have
perfect hands for measuring horses, but that one of the smaller girls in the class did not because my hands were bigger.

I then measured one of the students to show them how it worked. We discovered that she was 11.1 hands tall. We talked about how we only measure horse’s height in hands not their width.

They then took a guess at how tall Henny might be. We had guesses from 8 hands to 20 hands! One student nearly had the right answer when she suggested 14 hands. I then showed them that Henny is 14.2 hands tall.

Finally, I gave them a list of things that we were going to measure and we talked about how to measure only the height and how to hold our “hands”. Then I set them loose on the room. It was very interesting to see all of the different measurements that they came up with for the same thing! They even had their teacher as the tallest person in the room which made her happy even though she is the opposite!