The long and short of ‘measurement’

Neerja Singh

bars ‘Measurement’ as a lesson is a classic example of how removed our classroom can be from life around us. The metric table, standard units of measurement, our helpful mnemonics all work together to present this highly practical lesson in sterile and numerical terms to our students. It would take just one query on estimation of a class to verify this appalling disconnect.

Estimation really is the biggest test and reward of a thoroughly delivered chapter on ‘measurement’. The teacher’s aim ought to be to bring up children capable of translating into units what objects ‘feel’ or ‘look’ like to them without reaching for a graded gadget.

Take the games ‘Guess the cake weight’ or ‘Tell the candy count’ popular in fairs and fetes. A glance at the sheepish entries scrawled by adults makes it crystal clear that not many of them sat through a well taught session on ‘measurement’. A successful class on measuring parameters would spew forth students capable of estimating the length of a school corridor, the weight of a school bag, the capacity of their water bottles with reasonable accuracy. Unfortunately, even the ace graders have big round eyes to offer if asked to take a guess at weight, distance, or volume.

Figures and tables distract children. Neatly aligned values make them lazy. A good class will require of them an alert even if somewhat confused mental thrashing around. Unless they compare from scratch, juxtapose one against the other, apply their mental visuals to making educated guesses, they will forget all the measurement tests they got assessed A1 on.

The author has a background and training in education and media, and has worked in advertising, public relations, documentary film making and feature journalism. Her interest lies in the role of motivation, an all-round exposure and multiculturalism in the educational increment of children. A blogger with a keen interest in the evolving social dynamics and their influence on young people, she maintains a blog at She can be reached at

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