Measurement conversions can be quite overwhelming for some students! This is especially true if they do not understand the relationship between the different units of measurement. Notice I use the word “understand”, not the word “know”. Students can know that 1 foot is 12 inches with out really understanding how they are equal to each other. Below are suggestions for building understanding so that student can be successful with measurement conversions.

- START CONCRETE: Ask students a question which can be acted out with tools, such as “Sarah’s brother is 3 feet tall. How many inches tall is he?” Have students work in teams and decide what tools they can use to act out the problem. Rulers work great. Lining up 3 rulers on the floor and recording the length in feet and inches is a great way to show the solution. Your students may come up with something equally as helpful. Encourage multiples strategies. Another problem to act out could be “Marc is making ice cream. He needs 1 quart of cream for his recipe. How many cups of cream does he need?” Students can use water to measure the “cream” in in quarts and cups.
- MOVE TO PICTORIAL: After acting problems out, have your students draw the solutions they came up with. For example, they could draw Sarah’s brother and draw the rulers they used to solve the problem. Next, give them a few problems they can draw the solutions for.
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3. ABSTRACT: This is where things can get tricky for some students. My favorite strategy for helping students solve conversions is with a table or chart. Give your students a problem that is too large to act out such as ” Charlotte lives 4 km from the school. How many meters is 4 km?” Let them work in pairs or groups to come up with a way to solve. As with the problems above, encourage creativity and multiple ways to solve. After discussions, let students share their ideas. This is a good time to teach them how to make a table.

Solving with a table is a great method for younger grades to stick with. If you teach an older group, you can bridge from the table and teach students to use ratios/proportions and teach multiplication/division strategies for conversions.

4. Practice! Practice! Practice! As with any skill, students need a lot of practice!!!