Scavenger Hunt for Lengths

This is a complete lesson plan to discuss the difference between exact measurement and estimation in lengths. The site includes a complete lesson overview, discussion questions, evaluations, and further readings on the topic of length. This lesson plan begins with defining length, and how length can be observed and measured. Students are to find ways in the classroom to estimate or find the exact measurement in the classroom. From the data they use during the hands-on activity to find measurements, a discussion will be completed with the class in either a whole group or small group setting to determine why exact measurement is important in the real world. Students will also compile a list of when exact measurement is needed and when estimation can be used in real world settings.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
GLE 0306.4.5
Solve measurement problems involving fractional parts of linear units and capacity units.
GLE 0406.4.1
Understand and use the properties of lines, segments, angles, polygons, and circles.
GLE 0506.4.4
Solve problems that require attention to both approximation and precision of measurement.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 


Students will:

  • Understand how to measure and estimate lengths;
  • Understand the difference between measuring and estimating; and
  • Become more aware of linear measurements in the world and communicate better about the significance of these measurements.
Essential and guiding questions: 

Discussion Questions:

  • Suppose there were no units for measuring length. Hypothesize how lengths might be described. Then discuss how measuring length would be different without inches. Finally, discuss why having a range of units for measuring length, such as inches and feet, to choose from is necessary.
  • Would you measure a pencil in feet? A hallway in inches? Discuss whether these approaches make sense or whether using different units would be better.
  • Hypothesize about the possibility of developing a new standard unit for measuring length. Plan the unit. Explain whether the unit would be shorter than 1 inch, between 1 inch and 1 foot, between 1 foot and 1 yard, between 1 yard and 1 mile, or longer than 1 mile. Express the unit in terms of inches, feet, yards, or miles. Debate the advantages of the new unit.
  • Discuss some careers in which being able to measure or estimate length is essential. Some examples are jobs in architecture and construction, interior design, and medicine.
  • Suppose you were asked to design a room for young people in a neighborhood community center. You would need to tell the planners how big the room should be, whether a basketball hoop should be installed, whether the room should be divided into different sections, how many gallons of paint would be needed to paint the space, and how many sheets of flooring would be needed. How would you go about making these decisions? Would you use estimation, measuring, or both? What would your plan look like?
  • State whether you agree or disagree with each of the following, and defend your position.
  • An estimate is not a guess.
  • If you can measure, why estimate?
  • Linear measurements are not useful in everyday life.
  • Unless a measurement is exact, what good is it?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Differentiation suggestions: 



Have students convert the measurements on the Classroom Activity Sheet to metric units and then solve the problems. The following Web sites show how to convert between the English and the metric systems of measurement.

To convert from English to metric:

Metric Conversion 1

To convert from metric to English:

Metric Conversion 2

Extension suggestions: 



How Many Do You Think?

Pose the challenge of estimating how many pennies lined up end to end it would take to make 1 yard. Then ask a few students to arrange a row of pennies along a yardstick. Continue estimating with other objects and lengths, such as the following:

About how many pencils placed side by side would it take to make 1 foot?

About how many paper clips placed end to end would it take to equal 1 foot?

Now have students try to solve the following problems, which require calculating, measuring, and/or estimating.

About how many cars lined up bumper to bumper would it take to stretch for 1 mile?

About how many desks like the ones in your classroom stacked on top of each other would it take to reach 10 miles high?

Guide students in creating similar problems for their classmates.

Helpful Hints


The class will need the following:

  • Equipment for measuring length: rulers, yardsticks, tape measures, and trundle wheels
  • Computers with Internet access (optional but very helpful)
  • String (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Colored markers (optional)
  • Reference material such as atlases and road maps
  • Copies of Classroom Activity Sheet: Measurement Scavenger Hunt
  • Copies of Take-Home Activity Sheet: Measurement Puzzles
  • Answer Sheet for the Take-Home Activity Sheet: Measurement Puzzles (for the teacher only)
  • U.S. and Metric System Measurements
  • Letters and Numbers clip art