Do you ever find that those are some kids who just can’t seem to get a skill after the millionth time you have practiced it? This was definitely me a few weeks ago while teaching measurement conversions.
We were struggling with measurement conversions because they had little understanding of measurement and little to no knowledge of relative sizes of the unit. They just did not know when to multiply and when to divide to convert. We had worked on other strategies such as make a list and draw a visual. But we were getting into larger amounts and they needed to really move into writing equations to convert.
I just happened to walk into the other 5th grade teacher’s room and discover she was having the same problem. She shared with me something she had just tried that day. I changed it up a little and tried it on my kids. VOILA! They were converting correctly. I made up this poster to have them glue in their interactive notebooks to remind them up the steps.
Basically, the students use the information in the problem to create two equations on top of each other like this:
24 inches = ? feet
12 inches = 1 foot
The students then use this information very strategically to determine whether multiplication or division is needed to solve the equivalency problem. I think this strategy works because it puts in steps what proficient students do internally. Also it forces the students to really stop and think about the units and how to convert them.
Click here to download the FREE Measurement Conversion strategy poster that I gave my students as a support.This poster also works great in an interactive notebook.
If you need printables to practice measurement conversions, I have a Measurement Conversion printable pack that includes 25 pages of conversions, whole numbers, decimals, and fractions are included (and separated so you can differentiate as needed).
Click here to check out the Measurement Conversion Printables on TpT.
What tips or tricks do you use to teach your kids to convert measurements? (Especially when that pacing guide is calling your name and you don’t have time to re-teach the background from 4th grade!)
Great explanation. After some repeated practice, and referring back to their notebook page, they should be pros. That would also make a GREAT anchor chart:)
My Teacher Friend
Alison Rose says
Thank you so much for sharing. I can't wait to try this with my kids.
Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'
Erin T says
We use the metric system, so conversions are WAY easier – I don't envy your pain!!!
The E-Z Class
Janet Ust says
Found the phrase: horse to fly- multiply (big unit to small) and fly to horse- divide of course (small to big). My students love it!
I don't have any cool tips or tricks for measurement, but I am happy to search the internet and borrow cute ideas like these! Thanks for sharing!!
I use ratio tables for EVERYTHING!
Thanks for sharing! This will come in handy for the conversion is our math journal.
Turtley Loving Teaching
Heather GalIe says
I just went through this myself when my 5th graders switched from metric to customary and I thought there has to be trick or strategy like the metric system stair step. I sat down one day and worked and worked at it and then BOOM! I came up with a great stair step strategy much like the metric stair system that is really easy to use for US Customary measurements. I am new to posting a comment on a page so I don’t want to write about a product on here if you aren’t supposed to. So please email me back and let me know if you want a sneak peek at what I came up with, and if you like it I will post more info about it?
Please email me @
your stair step strategy , that you came up with.
My kids are kind of struggling to understand when do they need to divide and when to multiply.
Thank you so much in advance.
You’ll be doing a huge favor to some kids in ESL , who are smart but sometimes language comes in the way of full comprehension,
SC from New Jersey.
Alex Pettis says
I would love to see this stair step strategy as well! I have a couple of struggling 4th graders.
I wish I had found this earlier. I can think of several students who could have really benefited from this last year. At least I can use it for this year’s group. Than you for all your work.