A Little Measurement Conversion "Trick" {video}

One thing that I am finding I have to spend a lot more time going over now is measurement conversions.  In the past, I would touch upon it, but since it wasn't a key standard, my in depth study of it was limited, to say the least.  But now, with SBAC looming and conversions being SUCH a big part of all of the released questions, I am finding myself really diving into this skill.

Knowing the actual units of measure doesn't seem to be a problem for my students.  But it is making the conversions that are proving a problem.  The actual math itself (multiplying or dividing) isn't the issue.  It is knowing *when* to use the correct operation that is tricky.

SO.....

I came up with this little gesture "trick" that we have been using to help the kids remember what to do.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is BIGGER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands over their head and create a multiplication sign.  They then know to multiply by the conversion rate.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is SMALLER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands low across their body and mimic a division sign.  They know that division is called for to convert the measure.

Got that?  Well, just in case, I made a little 1 minute video to show you just how to do it!  :)   I am not an actor, so bear with me ;)

Doing this little muscle memory trick, my kids have been pretty successful at doing their conversions.  I have a little poster to go along with this too!  It features the cutest little girl (if I do say so myself ;))  Just click here and download the preview...and you will get the poster to print for {free} :)

To practice, I used  some task cards, sorting activities, and other thinking pages that have helped them to really hone in on the conversion skills.

Are they masters yet?  No.  But they are getting there far faster and better than any class I have had before :)

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Measurement-Conversions-in-5-Days-Lessons-to-Teach-Converting-Measures-1706779
Would you like some lessons and printables that can be used with your students?  You can get them right here in this  Measurement Conversions in 5 Days!  These were created just for you with your class and students in mind.  :)

22 comments

  1. I haven't taught it, yet, and i have no clue where to begin!

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  2. I am new to my grade level this year so i am starting from the ground up. I am planning on using some hands on when possible to accompany the text. I think your trick will help! Thanks! ZenfoxflowerAT yahoo.com

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  3. I just use up and down arrows, but I like the idea of adding motions. Using games such as Scoot and Zap help make it a bit more fun for my kiddos, too.
    arenaissanceteacher@gmail.com

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    1. You are the winner of the pack! Congratulations! I will email you now with the pack :)
      Stephanie

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  4. I always struggled with this, too. I have tried many different ways, but I love your trick. Thanks for sharing. chief9937@Yahoo.com

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  6. We just finished up with measurement. The students made a foldable for their notebooks with all the conversions. We played Scoot and then reiterated when to multiply/divide on the rule every day.
    tmaxwell@dechantal.org

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  7. we use the rhyme "horse to fly, you multiply; fly to horse, divide, of course!" They love it but I can't wait to teach them the hand motions...and buy this pack! :)
    Esprice@fcps.edu

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  9. I struggle with teaching this concept. We use measurement of the day, measurement conversion fans, and lots of practice, but many students still struggle. I will try your trick as soon as we are in school consistently enough for it to stick.
    cwspears@gmail.com

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  10. Having to add this to the math mix in my resource room has been a struggle at all grade levels. I have been using visuals with arrows - along a list of the measurement units - with the operation beside it. I like the idea of having a signal we can use that is always with us - our bodies. Especially since I never know where I'll be sitting when I'm working with a student on math and we might not have an easy time using a visual posted in the room. zputty@gmail.com

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  11. I use gallon men and yard strips which are broken down to give them a tactile representation of the different types of measurement. Then we use input output tables to convert. I'd love your resource. emilyfischer@att.net

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  12. This will be my second year teaching and have to say did not like last year (just an anchor chart) and looking for a new trick. Thank you!

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  13. We use something similar. We hold our hands out to our sides signifying a larger measurement and modeling a human division sign. We then bring them in front of us and cross our arms to form a multiplication sign at the time making ourselves smaller.So if they start at pints and need to go to cups they would hold their arms out and then bring them in front of them to realize that they need to multiply to convert. Vice-versa if they were going from small to large. The trick is getting them to recognize where they are starting. Any tips for this? LOL

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  14. I borrowed this from another teacher. When you are converting a larger unit into a smaller unit remember Large Strawberry Milkshake (large to small you multiply). When you are converting a smaller unit into a larger unit remember Small Lemonade Drink (small to large you divide).

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  15. Will def use your poster to help the kids understand the conversion. The task cards are a great way to reinforce the concept. Thanks.

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  16. We use graphic organizers that go in our interactive math journal. The students refer to them often until most start catching on. Would love to be able to use this unit. ksmith6@escambia.k12.fl.us

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  17. Such a difficult concept. It goes against EVERYTHING we have taught them all year. I usually have them make posters with the "rules". I then hang them up and make book marks with some of them, the more they see it, the more likely it is to stick...maybe....:-)
    email is jyankovich@hotmail.com

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  18. You are SO right about conversions being tricky. I've tried to have them to the Large --> Small = Multiply and Small --> Large = Divide thing, but it just never seems to stick. Last year, I came across this: https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/mownbywhite/8234044722/. I had students make one of these for each of the various conversions we did and put it in their math notebooks. They were able to use them for daily work but then had to memorize for tests. I let them draw the organizer on their test papers, if they needed to, and it really seemed to help. This teacher also had videos for each of the conversions too, but I can't seem to find those anymore!! Helpful, anyway. Thanks for the post!

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  19. We are just about to go into measurement, so this is perfect timing. I used visual posters, gallon guy, and input output boxes in the past to teach conversion. This year's class will benefit from learning this fun "physical" way to learn a difficult concept. :) thanks! wendydcarswell@gmail.com

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  20. I have been using the Big "G" story with the queens and garden but need something new!

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