K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!: Using chocolate as a theme, students will become involved in reading, writing, math, word study/spelling and other developmentally appropriate (integrated) activities. The unit includes centers for the classroom along with whole group activities.
  • How long is your smile?: Students will use standard and nonstandard measurement to measure their smile.
  • Project Groundhog: The students will determine the groundhog prediction of either six more weeks of winter or an early spring and see if the prediction was accurate by recording daily weather data for six weeks. Over that six week period the students will be comparing their weekly data with schools around the USA and Canada using the Project Groundhog website.

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

Learning outcomes

The students will learn to display data gathered through various measurement activities.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • tape measures
  • rulers
  • graphing or grid paper
  • Markers
  • pencils
  • scratch paper


Some practice with rulers and tape measures would be helpful. Some previous graphing activities are helpful.


  1. Begin the activity by telling the students they will be measuring and gathering data at the same time.
  2. Decide what you would like them to begin measuring first. I like to begin with something easy to measure, like handspan (spread out fingers and measure from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinky) first.
  3. Put the students into groups of 2-4. Place a tape measure, yardstick, meterstick, and ruler(containing both cm and inches) at each table. Instruct them to choose what they feel will be the best tool to use for measuring their handspans.
  4. Allow the groups enough time to experiment with the various measuring tools. Then hold a brief class discussion about the measuring tool preferred by each group.
  5. Have the class come to a consensus and choose a tool with which to measure. Once the preferred tool has been established, have them begin their task and collect the data.
  6. Once all data has been collected and any problems discussed and worked out, bring the groups together to share their information for the entire class to see. This can be done in a variety of ways such as:
    • Quick line plot using sticky notes, X’s on the board or overhead
    • Tally marks
    • or any other way you may feel works best to pull you data together for a large group
  7. Once the class is able to see all the data gathered, allow time for discussion on the findings and what they tell them.
  8. Now discuss possible ways to display this information in a way that would be helpful and interesting to someone else. After the discussion, have the class break apart and get back into their original group to create a graph. Make sure you have all needed supplies out for them to get as needed. NOTE: This graphing session may need to be done at a later time depending on your schedule and the time used for the other activities.
  9. After the groups are finished have each one share their graph and discuss it with the class.
  10. Pose some possible questions to the groups as they are sharing to better help them interpret the data they have collected and displayed.
    • What is the largest handspan?
    • What is the smallest handspan?
    • What is the size of the most common handspan in the class?
    • What else does this information tell us?

    Continue to ask questions as long as students are motivated and interested.

  11. Display all graphs throughout the room or in the hall for others to see!!


This would be a wonderful opportunity to have students write about what they learned from the graph. What does it tell them? What does it mean? Do you think the graph might look the same if high school or college students gathered data on their handspans? Why or why not? What about kindergarteners?

Of course, remember to measure other things with other tools to help students get a better understanding of metric and customary measurement-as well as using the best tool for a specific purpose.


  • Active student involvement - group and class participation.
  • Group graphs
  • Writing/dicussion with interpreting the data.
  • More formal test or quiz can be given if specific graphing or measurement skills have been taught and need to be assessed.

Supplemental information

A terrific supplemental resource to always have on hand when teaching data collection use the series entitled USED NUMBERS.



  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • Measurement & Data
          • 2.MD.1 Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.
          • 2.MD.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems1 using information presented in a bar graph.
        • Grade 3

          • 3.MD.3Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step “how many more” and “how many less” problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 2: Measurement - The learner will recognize and use standard units of metric and customary measurement.
    • Objective 2.02: Estimate and measure using appropriate units.
      • Capacity (cups, pints, quarts, gallons, liters).
      • Length (miles, kilometers).
      • Mass (ounces, pounds, grams, kilograms).
      • Temperature (Fahrenheit, Celsius).