Polly's new pen-pal, Ally, lives in Montreal, Canada, where they use the metric system. Polly and Ally have lots in common: They both have cats, like the color purple, and are just about the same size and weight. But when Ally writes that she is 125 centimeters tall, Polly needs to ask her Dad for help to figure out how tall that really is. Dad uses a baseball bat about 1 meter—100 centimeters—long as a reference, and shows Polly that one centimeter is about the width of his little finger. Dad helps Polly figure out grams and kilograms, and meters and kilometers, also by using every day references she can relate to. The use of rough equivalents in terms of familiar objects and distances helps kids become familiar and comfortable with the metric system, Illustrated by Rémy Simard.
A large grapefruit is the rough equivalent of a kilogram. Have or child or students take turns holding a grapefruit, feeling its weight. Then have them pick up other objects (a book, a bag of candy, Mom's purse) and decide whether each object weighs more or less than a kilogram.
Have the child or students lie down on butcher paper or newspaper. Trace around their bodies with a marker. Measure, in centimeters, height and the length of an arm, leg and little finger.
Cut several strings into 10-centimeter lengths. Give your students the strings and ask them to find objects that measure about 10 centimeters. The first child to find five objects is the winner.
Polly’s Pen Pal is a great and fun way to help children realize that measuring is something we do all the time in our daily lives. Part of the MathStart series, this book focuses on metric measurement.
In the story, Polly exchanges letters with her pen pal, Ally, from Canada. Ally writes about height and weight in metric units, which Polly is not familiar with. Her dad helps her understand what these measurements mean by using common items such as a baseball bat for the approximate length of a meter. While planning a trip to Canada, Polly and her father discuss where Canada is located and the distance in kilometers they will have to travel to get there.
The books in the MathStart series are leveled 1 – 3. This book is level 3, which is appropriate for ages 7 and up. I read this book to children in grades 2 – 5 and they all enjoyed the story. The students could relate to this story because many of them have had a pen pal before or wanted one.
This book, as well as the others in the MathStart series, helps in the endeavor of learning in an interdisciplinary way. Polly’s Pen Pal not only brings reading into mathematics, but also social studies. I would love to have all the books in the series in my classroom library.
óBarbara Hosey, Beauvoir Elementary School, Biloxi School District, Biloxi, MS
This book provides a mathematical story line by utilizing a writing adventure through a discussion between pen pals. The major focus is on metric units. The book makes lots of interesting connections across the academic curriculum: Students have the opportunity to broaden their geography skills for subsequent travel, increase their writing abilities by way of technology through e-mail, and improve their measuring skills by using metrics (for weight and distance, for example). The focus on metrics is via a mathematical adventure approach that provides examples and a real-life connection to learning. Each page of the story seems to accompany every other. The story line encourages the student to visualize and think critically. The book could be used in grades 2-3. The story itself is grade appropriate and will enhance the content and knowledge base of each learner in the area of metrics in mathematics. Overall, this is a great book to use as a supplement to enrich mathematics teaching.
óCharles Mercer, Burrville Elementary School, Washington DC
Used with permission from SB&F, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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