12 Aug '13

News How to teach … weights and measures

The Guardian Teacher Network has resources this week to help young people get to grips with weights and measures

Weights and measures are fundamental areas of maths across the key stages – as well as something students will use in real life. They are also topics that cause a huge amount of confusion and have the potential for big mistakes, mainly due to the UK's lukewarm support of the metric system. Yes, metric units are the norm in UK schools, but those old imperial measurements just refuse to go away. They are likely to be present in most students' lives at home and in the wider world, from measuring their height to cooking – and of course it's still officially correct to measure distances in miles.

The Guardian Teacher Network has some helpful resources to get to grips with weights and measurements.

For younger students, learning what the measurements are called is a great start: Use and begin to read vocabulary related to lengths is an interactive encouraging pupils to compare real-life objects with the standard metric measurements.

Learning measurement equivalents will help effective work, for example students need to know there are 300cm in three metres, or that 1.5 litres is the same as 1500 millilitres. Here's a nice visual interactive to help students remember those vital measurement equivalents.

Practice certainly makes perfect in weights and measures, so here is a set of fantastically useful worksheet generators for the primary classroom. Teachers can quickly create a host of worksheets on weights and measures and choose whether or not to include answers for peer marking. Start with measuring decimals, including reading rulers, centimetres to metres, metres to centimetres, metre questions and problem solving. Produce multiple worksheets on estimating length and measuring shapes. Choose from estimation sheets and sheets covering unit of measurements/devices in measuring problems. And finally, generate a great set of conversion worksheets including measuring capacity and conversion miles to kilometres and imperial units to metric plus work on reading scales.

Here's a nice interactive resource for primary on reading a simple scale to the nearest labelled division – encourage students to do more practice when cooking at home.

Now a selection of useful worksheets shared by www.primaryleap.co.uk. For younger children, find Tallest and shortest. Children must first put a circle around the tallest object in each group and then put a circle around the shortest object in each group. Students look at the different lines and answer the questions in length problems. In Units of length pupils must make the sums add up to one metre and then up to one kilometre. For weights work try Reading scales, which contains 10 illustrations of scales with kilograms and grams. Children must draw an arrow down for the heaviest, up for the lightest and across for the same. More scales investigation in Weight, which is all about reading the weight shown on the scales and deciding which item is heaviest. In Measuring mass, students learn how to measure weight in grams and kilograms and that 1,000 grams = 1 kilogram. Now convert grams to kilograms and vice versa.

For weights and measures-themed displays try Twinkl's useful posters. Find one on Measures, Measurement conversion, Weights and measurements abbreviations or Weight comparisons.

The confusion around key facts of conversion of metric units often carries on into secondary school and has a detrimental effect on student results if not sorted. Mel Muldowney, the maths teacher behind www.justmaths.co.uk, says: "The ability to convert between metric units for some students is something they do automatically but others have been 'taught' it so many times and yet they still don't remember key facts. Focusing on a topic such as this, specifically for these students, means that the others in the class that have 'got it' won't get pushed on in terms of progress." Here's a great solution from Mel: the fantastic and differentiated Must, Should and Could worksheet that students can either work straight down with the questions getting progressively harder or they can work across then down, getting more practice this way.

Also find Mel's worksheet with a difference to convert between metric units of length – students have to evaluate statements made in relation to converting between metric units of length.

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