1. Measuring in inches requires a different way of thinking about fractions. The most common way for kids to think about fractions is the area model- where a space is divided into equal parts. When measuring inches, we have to think about fractions as a point on a line – the linear model- which can be confusing to students. It’s hard for them to connect the idea of ½ of a cookie with a line on a ruler being ½ of an inch.

Coloring inch measurements on rulers can help students make that
connection between the area model and the linear model of fractions. When they color in half of an inch on a ruler,
they can SEE why that line is the halfway mark for measuring inches.

2. Students need a strong understanding of equivalent fractions to understand the lines on the ruler when measuring inches. The ruler lines count like this: whole number, 1/8, ¼, 3/8, ½, 5/8, ¾, 7/8, whole number. That’s very confusing for kids who are just starting to understand both measurement and fractions.

Coloring the inch measurements on a ruler can help students see
the patterns and begin to make sense of this confusing order of fractions. Color-coding the different fractions of an
inch will help students see the progression from one fraction to the next, and
will help them internalize the sequence.

3. There are SO MANY LINES to look at when measuring inches on a ruler! It can be really hard to know which one(s) to focus on and which ones mean which fractions.

Coloring the measurement lines on a ruler will help students to
make sense of all of those lines. In
order to color the ruler, students have to focus on the measurement lines,
which will help them see the patterns. They
will begin to notice that some measurement lines are longer, and that these
lines connect to the fractions with the smaller denominators (half inches and
quarter inches). They’ll be able to
visually see that the bigger spaces/ bigger fractions have the longer
measurement markings on the ruler, and the smaller spaces/ smaller fractions
(eighths) have the smaller measurement markings on the ruler.

Tips for Using Coloring to Teach
Measuring Inches on a Ruler:

-Give students printed rulers with only the lines on them. Have
the students color in the measurements (whole, half, quarter, or eighth of an
inch) and label the lines of the ruler with the correct measurements. (To align
to the Common Core, second graders should work with whole inches, third graders
should work with halves and quarter inches, and fourth and fifth graders should
work with eighths of an inch.)

-Start by using rulers marked with only whole inches, then add
half inches, quarter inches, and eventually eighths or even sixteenths of an
inch.

-Differentiate by writing in some of the measurements for students
who need support and challenging students with completely blank rulers.

-Give the students paper rulers with only whole inches marked. Have them draw the half lines and color each
inch in halves. Or, have them divide
each inch into fourths or eighths, mark each line, and color each fractional
piece.

-Use color-coding to help kids see the patterns: Color all the
spaces from the whole to ¼ inch blue, the spaces from ¼ to ½ yellow,
from ½ to ¾ green, and from ¾ to the whole red. Students will begin to notice the pattern:
whole, ¼, ½, ¾, whole, etc. The same can be done with ½ inches
or eighths of an inch.

Happy
Teaching (to the Nearest Quarter Inch)!

Christine Cadalzo

Christine Cadalzo

Pssssssst…

Here's a ready-made math unit for teaching students to measure to the nearest quarter inch!