As a math teacher, it’s always a challenge to make your lessons engaging, meaningful, and memorable. One effective way to accomplish this is through interactive activities, and today we’re going to deep dive into one of my favorites: the “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln” math activity. This fun-filled activity not only assists students in understanding units of measurements like inches, centimeters, feet, and meters, but it also enriches their historical knowledge and inspires a natural curiosity about the world around them.
This immersive activity targets the common core state standards (CCSS) for math, especially those related to measurement and data, and brings history into the math classroom in a way that truly resonates with the students. By comparing their own heights to that of Abe Lincoln, the tallest U.S. President ever, students are prompted to practically apply their knowledge of measurements. So, let’s get started on this innovative journey to bring math to life.
To begin, you’ll need some simple resources: pencils, rulers, bulletin board paper (one sheet per student large enough to trace their bodies), and a life-size cut-out of Abe Lincoln. This can be created by you, or alternatively, you could collaborate with the art teacher for a more artistic rendition. The cut-out should be hung up on the wall as if standing, so students can visualize how tall Abe Lincoln truly was.
Start the activity by reviewing how you drew Abe Lincoln and measured his height with a ruler. Refresh the students’ understanding of units of measurement, particularly inches, centimeters, feet, and meters. For engagement and curiosity, ask students to guess their height and also to predict how tall they believe Abe Lincoln was.
Once the basics have been covered, inform students that Abe Lincoln was 6 feet 4 inches tall, making him the tallest president in U.S. history. Put this into perspective by sharing that the average height for men in his time was 5 feet 6 inches. When Abe was only 17, he had already reached this formidable height, and was renowned as a great athlete. However, despite his height, he only weighed between 160 and 185 pounds, making him rather slender for his stature.
Encourage a few students to compare their heights with the cut-out of Abe Lincoln. Following this, arrange students into pairs and instruct them to take turns tracing each other on the bulletin board paper. They should then measure their traced height from head to toe in inches.
For older students or those with more advanced understanding, you could ask them to convert their height from inches to feet and inches. After this, each student should write their height on their cut-out. This part of the activity helps students practice their measuring skills and makes a sometimes abstract concept very tangible.
The Math: Measurements and Comparisons
Next, instruct the students to subtract their height in inches from Abe Lincoln’s height. Again, for those more advanced, this could be done in feet and inches. This part of the activity requires students to apply their subtraction skills to real-world scenarios, aiding their understanding and appreciation of math as a practical tool.
As the students complete their mathematical comparisons, discuss their findings. How do they compare with Abe Lincoln? Are they surprised by any results?
The Finale: Dressing and Displaying
Once the mathematical part is over, students can then engage in the creative part of the activity. They are encouraged to dress their cut-outs, decorate them, and make them truly their own. The completed cut-outs can be displayed in the hallways alongside Abe, serving as both a celebration of their work and a visual representation of their mathematical achievement.
Accommodations and Modifications
While the “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln” activity is designed to be engaging and educational for all students, it’s essential to make accommodations and modifications for students with diverse learning needs.
For students with physical disabilities, you can modify the activity by having them measure a smaller object, such as a doll or action figure, instead of tracing and measuring themselves. If a student struggles with motor skills, provide assistance with the tracing and measuring parts of the activity.
For students with learning disabilities, provide additional support as needed. For instance, if a student struggles with subtracting larger numbers, you can help them break down the process into smaller, more manageable steps. Alternatively, you could provide a calculator for students who may need one.
For students who are gifted and talented, consider adding more challenging aspects to the activity. For example, you might ask them to convert their height into a different unit of measurement, such as meters or centimeters. You could also ask them to calculate the difference between their weight and Abe Lincoln’s weight.
Throughout the activity, encourage a sense of play and curiosity. Here are a few scenarios you could incorporate:
Scenario 1: Student A is 5’1″ tall. Student A measures their height, subtracts their height from Lincoln’s, and discovers they are 15 inches shorter than Lincoln. They might make a joke about needing a step stool to see eye-to-eye with Lincoln!
Scenario 2: Student B is 6’5″ tall. Student B is surprised to find out they are taller than Lincoln. They might playfully boast about being “taller than the tallest president” and speculate on what sports they could have played in Lincoln’s time.
Scenario 3: Students C and D are both 5’6″ tall. These students discover they are the same height as the average man during Lincoln’s era. They compare their lifestyles and imagine what it would be like living in the 1860s.
By including these scenarios, the activity becomes a dynamic way to learn math, encouraging students to delve deeper into both historical and mathematical concepts.
Linking with Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
The “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln” math activity aligns with multiple CCSS for Math, particularly those related to measurement and data. Here are the most relevant standards:
- CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.A.1: Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.
- CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.MD.A.2: Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals.
Remember, making math fun and relevant can go a long way in fostering a love for the subject in your students. The “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln” activity is an excellent way to achieve this, mixing history, mathematics, and a whole lot of fun!
Embrace the spirit of innovation in your teaching practice and watch your students flourish. After all, the only measurement that truly matters in teaching is the growth of our students. Let’s keep measuring up to that.
Extension Ideas for “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln” Activity
Continuing from our earlier discussion on the educational and interactive activity – “Measuring Up to Abe Lincoln”, we bring forth a variety of strategies and ideas from teachers around the globe. These wonderful educators have offered their take on how to tailor this activity for different learning levels, ages, and teaching environments.
Extending for Older Students: Exploring Ratios and Proportions
A great way to stretch this activity for 6th and 7th graders studying ratios and proportions is to introduce scaling. Students could receive a scaled-down version of Abe Lincoln and be tasked with creating a life-sized drawing using the given scale. This allows them to grasp the concept of ratios and proportions in a hands-on way, and aligns well with the respective grade-level standards.
A digital twist to this idea could involve students inputting measurements into an app and observing a virtual Abe Lincoln. This not only caters to paperless classrooms but also allows students to compare their own proportions to those of Lincoln in a dynamic, interactive way.
Embracing Real-Life Measurements
In the era of digital education, it’s important not to lose sight of real-life, tactile experiences. Encourage students to engage with physical measurements by estimating and measuring actual objects, like their heights using a tape measure. Understanding physical units of measure like meters, grams, and liters promotes practical knowledge that’s indispensable.
Exploring Beyond Numbers: Height as Just a Number
In the wake of studying iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Abe Lincoln, integrate a lesson that interprets height as just a number. Students can create a tri-fold presentation featuring themselves, Abe Lincoln, and a sports hero, reflecting their heights, jobs, and personal acclaims. This encourages students to acknowledge individual potential beyond physical attributes.
Diving Deeper into Measurements
Add a playful spin by challenging students to calculate how tall a hat they’d need to match Abe Lincoln’s height. Compare lengths of arms, introducing conversion between inches, centimeters, and millimeters for different age groups. Encourage students to compare their arm lengths to their actual heights and determine the ratio, enhancing their understanding of proportions.
Incorporating Technology: 3D Printing
If you have access to a 3D printer, consider having students create a 3D scale model of themselves or President Lincoln. This offers a unique hands-on experience and helps students visualize ratios and proportions.
Encouraging Year-Round Learning
Keep the spirit of this activity alive throughout the year. Have students measure themselves again at the end of the year to see how much they’ve grown. This fun reflection can help solidify understanding of measurement and growth.
Adjusting for Younger Students
For younger students, use string instead of rulers. Students can trace their bodies and cut lengths of string equivalent to their height and other body parts, offering a tactile approach to learning measurements.
Turn this activity into a lesson on fractions. Ask students to calculate what fraction of their body is just arms, legs, trunk, and so on. This not only enforces the concept of fractions but also encourages body awareness.
Integrating Unit Conversion
For older students, integrate a unit conversion exercise. Start by converting Lincoln’s height into inches, then have students measure each other and convert those measurements into inches. Use the data collected to create line plots, graphs, or histograms, providing visual representations of data.
Exploring Other Historical Figures
Extend this activity by introducing other historical figures and creating a graph comparing their heights. This could be an engaging way for students to learn about various historical figures while reinforcing mathematical concepts.
Translating Estimation into Practice
Encourage students to estimate each other’s heights and then calculate the difference between their guess and the actual height. This practice can sharpen their estimation skills.
Merging Measurement with Literature
To incorporate literature into this activity, consider reading an excerpt from Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”. After reading about the Lilliputians measuring Gulliver, have students translate “thumb lengths” into conventional units of measurement.
Encouraging the Metric System
For older students, integrate measurements using the metric system and provide opportunities for unit conversion. Understanding both metric and standard units of measurement is a vital skill, and hands-on practice can facilitate learning.
This Abe Lincoln measuring activity is a versatile, engaging way to teach students about measurements, ratios, proportions, scaling, and more. Its adaptability across various age groups, learning levels, and teaching environments makes it a valuable tool for any math or history curriculum.
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