Juan, Sarah and Laura are building sand castles. But which one's tallest? Juan's is only two shovels high, while Sarah's is three. Laura's moat is one big spoon deep, while Juan's is two little spoons deep. Too bad their shovels and spoons aren't the same size. But "an inch is always an inch," says Larry the Lifeguard, using a tape measure to determine the winners. Children learn that it is helpful to use standard units of measure to make accurate comparisons. Illustrated by Julia Gorton.
Ask questions throughout the story, such as: "Do you think that using a shovel would be a good way to measure the tower of the castle? and "Is a spoon a good way to measure the depth of the moat?" Explain that these tools can be used for measuring, but that tools of the same length must be used consistently.
Pick distances around the house or classroom and measure them using "baby steps" and "giant steps." Is the hallway more baby steps or giant steps long? Are there more baby steps or giant steps between the couch and the computer? Explain.
Have friends take turns lying down on the floor and measuring each other from head to toe using straws, and then a ruler. Make a chart that shows the length of each person in terms of different units of measurement.
This entry in the MathStart series explores the hazards of measuring in nonstandard units. Eager to win prizes from Larry the lifeguard for the tallest tower, longest wall, and deepest moat, Juan, Sarah, and Laura compare their sand castles; they discover that Sarah's castle is three shovels tall while Juan's is but two, Laura's moat is one spoon deep while Juan's is two, and Laura's wall is five steps long to Sarah's seven. However, as observant viewers will note, Sarah's spoon is longer than Juan's, her shovel and feet shorter. Wielding a tape measure, Larry explains why inches are more reliable units than spoons, etc. People and objects in Gorton's simple air brushed cartoons stand out distinctly against the green ocean and sun-drenched sand, and lines of measurement are laid out for viewers to compare. With the small type activity notes at the end, this makes a pleasant, painless way for children (and dare we say adults?) to pick up some basic math methodology. For those who resist Larry's strict notions, bring out Loreen Leedy's blithe Measuring Penny for a more generous examination of non-standard measurements.Used with permission from Kirkus Reviews. Copyright ¨© Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Under Larry the Lifeguard's watchful eye, three friends compete to see who can build the tallest sand castle, the deepest moat, and the longest wall. When they start to measure the results, trouble begins because each contestant uses a different non-standard unit of measurement. Sarah's tower is three shovels tall; Juan's is only two shovels tall, but Sarah's shovel is much smaller than Juan's. And voila-the concept of measurement is aptly and creatively presented. Murphy does a good job of imparting the math lesson while delivering a natural story. Gorton's stylized air-brushed acrylics add a whimsical touch. The multi-ethnic cast frolics on the beach with energy. The illustrations clearly show the comparisons while the children are measuring and complete the picture of how a moat that's two spoons deep could be more shallow than the moat that's one spoon deep. Pair this with Loreen Leedy's Measuring Penny (Holt, 1998) for a complete picture of measurement and comparison. And remember Larry's advice, "Spoons and shovels and people's feet can all be different sizes…but and inch is always an inch."
óJane Claes, T.J. Elementary School, Irving, TX
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